You could have called it a cosmic NHL dream-team with astronauts from the world's three great hockey powers assembled in orbit: Chris Hadfield from Canada, Tom Marshburn from USA and Roman Romanenko from Russia. As a proud member of "Leafs Nation," Hadfield "dropped" the puck from the International Space Station (ISS). You can watch how it all unfolded.
When Chris Hadfield, Roman Romanenko and Tom Marshburn saw their capsule's airlock swing open for ISS Expedition 34, they joined Russian Flight Engineers Evgeny Tarelkin, Oleg Novitskiy, and NASA commander Kevin Ford (who passed the torch of leadership to Hadfield for Expedition 35) in an adventure borned out of years of training.
During his five-month mission aboard the ISS, Hadfield and the Station crew conducted over 130 science experiments, establishing a NASA record for science conducted on the largest orbiting laboratory in history.
Here's a personal look at Chris and the two companions who shared a Volkswagen Beetle-sized Soyuz cabin with him on the way to the world's largest spacecraft.
During ISS Expedition 35, Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian to command a space mission (and only the second non-Russian/non-American to be in charge of a large-scale orbital crew.)
In addition to serving as a real-life 'Captain Kirk', presiding over a mission of scientific exploration, Chris had a chance to explore one of his other passions.
When not on duty, the Sarnia, Ontario native jammed with a Canadian Larivée guitar around the station's 2-metre wide Cupola window assembly, writing music and lyrics inspired by his latest stay in space. While in orbit, Chris and Barenaked Ladies lead singer Ed Robertson performed the song that they co-wrote for Music Monday 2013.
Roman Romanenko grew up with the Russian space program all around him... literally: His father Yury Romanenko flew two missions to the early Salyut space outposts and one of the first missions to the completed Mir space station.
While his dad was orbiting the Earth, Roman attended and graduated from Star City high school, before becoming an Air Force pilot at the age of 21.
According to fellow Expedition 20/21 crew members (including Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk and inaugural Canadian space tourist Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté), Roman has a wicked sense of humour:
During a live linkup from the ISS for a 2009 U2 concert, Romanenko questioned front man Bono,
"I want to ask you something. If you see David Gahan from Depeche Mode, say a big hello from me," Romanenko joked of U2's fellow 80s alternative rock band. "He had such an amazing haircut," Bono said.
When you're an E.R. doctor, the bumps and bruises of space travel – from bone loss to spacesuits that fit so tight you get cut up just putting them on – would likely phase you less than the average astronaut (if there is such a thing.)
But more than being an astronaut with advanced medical training, Tom Marshburn is a product of small town America and the ideals of NASA's astronaut training program.
"I don't know how many places you can still today just hop on your bike and ride to downtown to go get a milkshake or walk with your brothers and sisters to the movie theatre from your house," says Marshburn about his sleepy, All-American hometown of Statesville, North Carolina. "My childhood is full of those memories and just the friendliness of the people around there," he says.
Marshburn, who flew to the ISS with Canadian astronaut Julie Payette on shuttle mission STS-127, spent 10 years as a medical doctor and 10 years as a NASA flight surgeon before being selected into the astronaut program.
Assembling the team
As with others, that selection process took into account exemplary educational and career achievements and the ability to pass a number of physical tests before rigorous interviews and training exercises.
The final process of pairing Hadfield with Marshburn and Romanenko involved selecting three astronauts with the sum total talents required for this mission – along with the other astronauts they'll share the ISS with, including Expedition 35/36's Pavel Vinogradov, Chris Cassidy – who also flew with Julie Payette and Tom Marshburn on shuttle mission STS-127 – and Alexander Misurkin, who joined them during the latter half of their stay. Hadfield was very well acquainted with cosmonaut Vinogradov as they trained together for respective missions to the Russian Mir Space Station in the mid-nineties. After nearly 20 years since those early days, they came full circle to work together again, shared what they learned and took their turns to command the ISS.
While many of an astronaut's talents are technical and scientific, other elements include personality compatibility, mental health, linguistic ability and team dynamics. In this sense, it was nothing but clear skies for the Expedition 34/35 crew and their cohorts.
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