Moderator: It’s an exciting day for the Canadian Space Agency and in fact it really is going to be an historical day. I think it’s fitting that we are launching such a mission in the year of our 50th anniversary of space flight in Canada. The launch of Alouette 1 back in 1962 gave us the confidence and credibility to pursue what is now our flight heritage with respect to robotics, satellite communications, optics and Earth Observation radar.
I think this mission, such a mission that we have today with Chris Hadfield, the Agency is positioned well from our heritage and from our history but this mission will carry us to the crossroads that we have and will allow Canada and the Canadian space program to command its space destiny.
It’s a great honour to have a special guest here today, and I would like to ask the Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable David Johnston, to say a few words.
Rt. Hon. David Johnston: What a thrill it is to be here at the Canadian Space Agency for this historic launch. I have been looking forward to this since my visit to the Agency one year ago. Space missions are literally years in the making, so I would like to start by congratulating everyone who has contributed to this effort. As Governor General, it gives me great pride to think that, in just a few months’ time, Chris Hadfield will make history as the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.
As you know, he will conduct scientific experiments, operate Canadarm2 and perform robotics tasks while in orbit. All things considered, I think we can say that Chris Hadfield and the Canadian Space Agency are making major contributions to this international mission. I also want to say how pleased I am that Chris will be bringing with him Eddy, the vice regal lion.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Eddy, he’s the mascot, the Rideau Hall mascot for our Eduzone online educational resource. Eduzone was launched earlier this year as a tool for students and teachers to learn more about the role, responsibilities and history of the office of Governor General as well as the two official residences. We’re very excited to be part of this mission and to know that Chris will have Eddy up there accompanying him all the time.
One of the priorities of my mandate is to encourage learning and innovation in Canada. I know Chris shares this passion, having spent much of his career speaking to students on the importance of pursuing their education. Of course, Chris Hadfield is just one of a number of Canadian astronauts who have advanced our efforts in space and our learning here in Canada.
I’m so delighted to be here with Steve MacLean, with David Saint-Jacques and Robert Thirsk today and on August 29th I was in my home town of Sault Ste. Marie for its 100th anniversary, and there was our neighbour when I was a boy growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, Roberta Bondar from Sault Ste. Marie. I salute their contributions to our shared quest for knowledge.
Your presence reminds us that space, science and exploration is by nature a collaborative effort in which one discovery builds upon the next. A space mission is also a wonderful example of international cooperation as evidenced by today’s launch from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.
Truly, we are all practitioners of what I like to call the diplomacy of knowledge, defined as our ability to share knowledge and learning across disciplines and borders – even beyond the ends of the Earth. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my best wishes for a safe and successful mission. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you, Governor General. I just want to point out that our byline with respect to the 50th anniversary is innovation, vision and passion, and that maps into the vision you have with respect to innovation and our procurement I feel has been driving innovation for 30 years. This is all coming together today. Now what I’d like to do is introduce a video from Chris Hadfield.
Video: Hello, everyone. This is Chris Hadfield here at the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan. We’re in quarantine here. There’s Syr River behind me. I wanted to welcome everybody to the launch. It’s historic. We are leaving Earth permanently for the first time in our species.
This isn’t a seaport. This isn’t an airport. This place is a space port. This is where we leave Earth and where we come back and land in this place. For us it’s an amazing place to be and for me personally an amazing time to be. I’m very happy to be here at this event with you, with our families, with our friends. This is an incredible moment, a historic moment for us. This is a wonderful moment that is bringing us together.
On behalf of the crew, on behalf of Roman and Tom and myself, everybody else that has supported us I thank you for the support that you’ve given. I welcome you very much to the event and I hope you really enjoy the show. I know that from inside the Soyuz on our way up to the Space Station we are going to enjoy it ourselves. Best of luck everybody. If I don’t talk to you from space I’ll talk to you when I get back.
Moderator: The launch is at 7:12. It is 6:59 right now and it gives me great pleasure to invite Robert Thirsk and David Saint-Jacques up here to give you a first‑hand account of their experiences relative to this launch. Bob launched May 27th I think 2009 for 188 days on the Station and so Chris is following with the second mission. David Saint-Jacques we hired as a new astronaut along with Jeremy Hansen in March of 2009, and both he and Jeremy are excelling at the NASA training class.
David Saint-Jacques: Hello everybody. Can you hear us? Yes, okay.
Robert Thirsk: Hello everybody. Can you hear us? Yes, okay. This is great to be here today. Expedition 34/35 for me always seemed to be months off, years off but today is the day and there’s absolutely an air of excitement. I guess we’ve got 13 minutes to go. I’m really thrilled it’s so close now.
There’s hundreds of scientists, engineers, flight controllers, robotic instructors, family support people, managers, administrators have been getting ready for this flight but Chris has also been getting ready as well. Training has preoccupied his mind for two and a half … five years, because he was my backup as well. What is training like for him?
David Saint-Jacques: I’ve had the chance to go through basic training at NASA and also in Russia with Jeremy. Training is mainly all about getting ready for this day. People often ask, are the astronauts nervous on the Launchpad? Are they nervous in the Station or on the rocket? In fact, as we all know, the best way to remedy stress is to prepare, and Chris is prepared.
That’s what training is all about. He knows his stuff inside out. If you look at the screen, you’ll see the Soyuz itself, with the capsule at the top of the rocket. Right now, the three of them are inside, in their spacesuits, fully strapped in. They’re running all kinds of tests. Chris here; the Soyuz Commander, Roman; and Tom, a colleague from NASA.
We’re going to show you what the capsule looks like. We’re looking at the capsule, at the top of the rocket. You can see the engineer here; you can see the size. It’s not very big. Years of preparation to know it all inside out. Chris is in his seat; it’s not very comfortable. He’ll be like that for two days on his way to the Station.
Chris is the co‑pilot of the Soyuz. It took him over a year of training to be ready for this important role. If there is a problem with his Russian colleague, Chris has to take over. You can see the rocket on the NASA screens. They’re on the steppes of Kazakhstan. The launch will be at sunset; the temperature is perfect. They should have a fantastic view.
To talk a bit about training, Chris has gone through years of training. He’s been involved in this mission for 10 years, in the centrifuge, training in emergency operations on the Station and on the vehicles in order to know it all inside out and be ready to take over as commander in an emergency situation. Bob, maybe you can tell us about some scientific experiments up there.
Robert Thirsk: The International Space Station is now fulfilling the role for which five space agencies initially designed it to fulfill, and that is to be a world‑class facility for performing research and development in a weightless environment. I’m talking about animal biology, plant biology, human physiology, fluid physics, materials processing, technology demonstrations of new medical hardware or engineering hardware.
It’s got phenomenal laboratory facilities now aboard the Station. Chris’s responsibilities will be amongst other things to take care of two of the more important research laboratories, the European and the Japanese laboratory that’s aboard the Station. They’re on the front end of the Station right there.
I’m proud to say that we have a good collection of Canadian experiments. Of the over 100 experiments aboard the International Space Station for the next 5 to 6 months, five will be Canadian.
David Saint-Jacques: We have the chance of having one of the main scientists involved in those experiments present.
Robert Thirsk: Dr. Richard Houston from the University of Waterloo.
David Saint-Jacques: Another thing that Chris might do of course, we know Chris is a very accomplished space walker and the first Canadian to do a spacewalk, the first Canadian to walk in space. We hope that he’ll have the chance to do it again during this mission. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but he’s ready; for sure he’s ready. And of course, there are also space robotics, which are always front and centre on the Space Station.
Now let’s talk about all of the vehicles that bring cargo, that resupply the Station. They have to be captured in orbit with the space arm. Chris is ready to do that. Bob has had the opportunity to participate in docking operations in space – he’s a pioneer in that area – and Chris will probably also have the chance to do that during his mission.
A few words on the role of commander that Chris will be required to support.
Robert Thirsk: One of the really neat things about having been a Canadian astronaut for 25 years is watching the evolution of the role and responsibilities of Canadian astronauts. We started off with limited roles and responsibilities as payload specialists aboard the space shuttle, and it then evolved to mission specialist status performing EVAs (ph), performing robotic operations as you mentioned, flying in the space shuttle, flying on the Soyuz vehicle, doing short-duration flights, doing long-duration flights.
Now Canada has the opportunity, the smallest space agency partner in the Space Station program, to take on the major crew role. Chris Hadfield a couple of months from now will become the crew commander of the International Space Station crew. This is a really good demonstration of how well this partnership works, that the smallest partner can take on a major critical role.
Chris’s responsibilities will of course be to make sure that the Station stays safe, that the crew stays safe, that all the mission objectives are fulfilled and also to try to maintain the psycho-social morale of the crew. Meal time is one way that Chris is going to do that. He’s bringing along a number of Canadian food items – smoked salmon, beef jerky, caribou jerky that he’ll be sharing with his European, Russian and American counterparts.
David Saint-Jacques: I guess that’s a lot of food sharing going on.
Robert Thirsk: I was really surprised at the role food can play. If you ever have a disagreement with anyone, get together over food. That will correct it.
David Saint-Jacques: Maybe we should move our attention to what’s going on in Kazakhstan right now. They’re on there. We are now 5, 6 minutes from launch. What do you think is going on up there? They’re in the Soyuz. What went through your mind when you were there?
Robert Thirsk: We entered inside the capsule three hours before launch. When the hatch was closed it was just the three of us. You just relax. Suddenly you don’t have the expectations of this large group of people on you anymore and all the ceremonial, traditional and cultural things to fulfill. Now it’s just you, your two crew mates and your spacecraft.
You feel very uplifted. There’s a lot of things to do in that three hour period of time – check all the systems on the spacecraft, make sure that they’re ready for launch today. Do a pressure check on the capsule that you see right here. It must be airtight. Do a pressure check on the spacesuits that they’re wearing. They must be airtight.
David Saint-Jacques: Here is Chris up there with his checklist reviewing stuff with his commander.
Robert Thirsk: The last 20 minutes or so before launch is a time for reflection, to think about the mission that you’re just about to launch, what it means in world history. Think about your family, friends, think about all of you. Chris would have seen your video greeting on his bus ride out to the launch pad this morning and would have felt very tight, very united with you.
There’s two cameras aboard the shuttle capsule. The first third of the way you’ll see Chris and Roman. About the middle third you’ll see a view of Tom Marshburn, the flight engineer too and then the last third on the way up we’ll see Chris and Roman again. The engines will ignite about 20 seconds before liftoff and about 10 seconds before liftoff they’ll reach full thrust.
Then at the moment of liftoff you’ll see the rocket lift up and the gantries fall away. Chris has flown twice on the space shuttle. This ride is going to be completely different for him. The shuttle is very noisy, very loud, a lot of vibration, a lot of shaking. This ride here is going to be quite a bit smoother. He’s not even going to know that they’ve lifted off except he’ll see the countdown timer start to move positively.
The only exception would be that the Soyuz is a three-stage rocket. When one stage is extinguished it will fall off, and the crew will go from 4Gs down to 0Gs for a couple of seconds until the next engines kick in. Then they’ll go back to 4Gs. They’ll be sitting in their seats on the first stage and then that stage ends, they’re thrown forward and then two seconds later the next stage will kick in, they’ll get thrown back again. Other than that it’s a Rolls Royce or Cadillac ride up to orbit.
Again they’ll be monitoring their systems on the way up. They’ll probably have a couple of controls to send. I mentioned the camera and the communication equipment checks that will need to be done on the way up. Roman here is holding his flight procedures. Roman and Chris as David already mentioned play the major role and Tom in the right seat will provide a support role.
A minute and a half up, you’ll notice a puff of smoke from the top of the Soyuz rocket. Don’t get worried. That’s just the escape system, the very top part of the capsule will not be needed after a minute and half has elapsed. You see a puff of smoke. There’s nothing wrong. It’s just going to fall off and then shortly after that you’ll notice the first stage will separate.
Those Roman candle looking booster rockets on the bottom part of the rocket will also be jettisoned. Don’t worry about that. The third stage will ignite about four minutes after launch. You probably won’t see that and that’s when the crew will get jolted around again. They’ll be talking to launch control all the way up. I think the President of the Russian Space Agency may be talking to them on the way up as well.
There’s a number of dignitaries that are in a bunker. This may be 300 to 400 metres away from the Launchpad there. If there is a problem prior to launch they’ll be able to quickly access the crew and get them out of there but it’s going to go absolutely flawless here.
David Saint-Jacques: There we are, 2, 3 minutes from launch. This is for them the end of a very long day. They’ve been strapped in there for over two hours, but they woke up more than ten hours ago getting ready, getting checked, seeing their doctor, checking their equipment. This is the culmination not only of a big day but of course several years of training.
Robert Thirsk: It’s one of the really enjoyable aspects of launching on a Soyuz is experiencing the other cultures. Chris has ridden twice on a shuttle and there’s a certain way that NASA manages a shuttle launch. This is a Soyuz launch experience and there’s a certain way that the Russians manage these launch events, the way they do quarantine, a lot of the Russian traditions. You might have seen a couple of the traditions this morning on TV.
The crew members write their name on the bedroom door. They’re blessed by the Russian Orthodox priest and prayers for a safe launch are made with the crew and the family. You’ve heard about some of the other traditions as well. It really makes the whole day very special and unique. There’s an air of excitement amongst the family, amongst obviously the crew. Today is a different day and everything that Chris has been training for and what you’ve been preparing for is all coming to culmination in one minute here.
David Saint-Jacques: There’s about one minute to go until liftoff. Everyone is ready. Everything’s been checked. You can feel the excitement in the air – I don’t know about you, but I can. Imagine Chris.
Robert Thirsk: Chris and Tom will have windows. They’re going to be too busy to look out the window but about two minutes after launch the cowling or the fairing covering the capsule will fall away and they’ll have window views.
Control: Ground umbilical is being detached. The 20‑second launch command has been issued. Now separating. 15 seconds and counting. Command confirmed. Engines firing. Liftoff. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and liftoff. Tom Marshburn, Roman Romanenko and Chris Hadfield making their way towards the International Space Station.
Good first-stage performance the Soyuz delivering 102 tons of thrust from its four strapped-on boosters and single-core engine. First stage of that Soyuz measuring 68 feet in length and 24 feet diameter, burning liquid fuel for the first two minutes and six seconds of flight.
All vehicle stabilization continuing as planned. Flight is nominal. Everything is nominal on board. We are now one minute ten seconds into the flight, the rocket now moving at a velocity of 1,100 miles an hour. Everything continuing to look flawless.
First stage thruster still continuing to fire nominally. Flight stable. Copy: "Parameters of the booster are stable. We are feeling great. There is vibration." Now one minute 54 seconds in, the launch escape tower has been jettisoned from the spacecraft. Jettison confirmed.
Now you can see the four strap-on boosters separating one minute 58 seconds into flight, being jettisoned. They’ve completed their job and dropped away at an altitude of about 28 statute miles. Soyuz now traveling at about 3,350 miles an hour. Nominal on board.
1:57 seconds in flight, booster stage two is functioning nominally. 2:38 seconds now into flight, the launch shroud being jettisoned, rocket now up to about 48 miles high. Crew inside. Vehicle stabilization still performing as planned. Everything going flawlessly on this launch, giving the wave, still doing well.
Everything is well. 200 seconds of flight. Core stage continuing to fire as planned.
Robert Thirsk: In the top left corner of the video you see a toy, a clown toy that’s hanging there. That’s a toy from Roman’s daughter and that’s functioning as their G meter. If it’s hanging straight down they’re under G. When it starts to float they’ve made it to space.
David Saint-Jacques: Also notice that when the commander wants to press buttons on the panel, he can’t reach because they’re strapped in so tightly, so he uses a rod – an extension. You can see the Earth behind them; that’s the horizon out the window.
Control: The second stage continuing to fire, core stage 56 feet in length, 13.5 feet in diameter with a single engine and four fuel chambers providing 96 tons of thrust for the 3 minutes and 28 seconds they’re operating.
David Saint-Jacques: Right now, the crew is just checking that everything’s running as it should; they know the sequence of events off by heart. They’re making sure that their instruments are functioning properly.
Control: We’ve got another 30 seconds. Soyuz will then use its hot staging technique, firing the third stage while the second is still burning.
Robert Thirsk: Everyone is too busy to look out the window right now, but you can see that they’re way up there, maybe approaching 100 km up and the sky is now black.
Control: "We’re feeling well and everything is nominal on board." The third stage now ignited, the second stage shutting down and separated. Separating at an altitude of 105 miles.
Robert Thirsk: Roman’s going to change the camera controls.
David Saint-Jacques: Chris is on the top right. (Cheering)
Control: Second stage separation is confirmed, the Soyuz now being propelled by a single engine of the Soyuz third stage. That single engine providing 30 tons of thrust for an additional four minutes and two seconds.
David Saint-Jacques: He’s busy with Roman, with their list, making sure that everything in the orbit sequence is unfolding as planned.
Control: 320 seconds of flight.
David Saint-Jacques: A few seconds ago, they dropped the fuel tank, which was empty. This is now the last phase of entering orbit.
Control: Everything is nominal on board. We’re just over 5:30 seconds into powered flight. The Soyuz craft now being propelled by its third stage, no issues being reported, everything performing as planned. 350 seconds of flight, everything is nominal. Just now coming up on the six-minute mark of powered flight. 380 seconds of flight. Functioning nominally. Everything is nominal on board.
Robert Thirsk: As soon as they reach orbit they’ll obviously go to weightlessness and then there’s some automated twisting in the spacecraft which will jettison the third stage and begin to deploy solar arrays and antenna. All of that should occur automatically. If it doesn’t then the crew will go into action and command it manually.
Control: Coming up on the seven-minute mark since launch, the crew reporting all going well. Soyuz rocket continuing to perform without a single hitch, that third stage continuing to fire, firing for an entire four minutes and two seconds.
David Saint-Jacques: When they lifted off, the rocket was vertical; now it’s almost horizontal and it’s accelerating to reach the speed required to stay in orbit.
Control: 450 seconds of flight. Everything is nominal. We’re feeling well, everything is nominal on board. Now over seven and half minutes since launch, the vehicle now traveling at a velocity of almost 13,500 miles an hour. Once this third stage delivers the Soyuz into orbit and the module is separated, a series of pre-programmed commands will be executed in order to prepare the Soyuz for orbital operations.
All parameters are normal. These stored commands are known as time-tagged commands and allow many of the Soyuz systems to be automatically activated by on‑board computers at precise times already programmed in. 500 seconds of flight, flight is nominal. We’re eight minutes now since launch, no issues reported, Soyuz continuing to take these astronauts into their preliminary orbit.
David Saint-Jacques: Right now, they’re going at about 20 times the speed of sound. Did you see them jolt in their seats? That was the engines stopping.
Control: We have confirmation of third stage cut off and separation, a single liquid fueled rocket engine shutting down and dropping away at an altitude of about 125 statute miles.
David Saint-Jacques: They’re in orbit. Look at their books floating.
Control: Third stage avoidance maneuver by opening the valve of liquid oxygen tank and now getting confirmation that each of the antennas on board the Soyuz craft have been deployed. Solar arrays also being successfully deployed.
David Saint-Jacques: Congratulations.
Moderator: I just want to thank everyone for coming. It’s easy to say God speed Chris Hadfield after a launch is over. The business is still risky, and I’m so pleased that the launch was successful. Chris now has several months of an amazing life and I encourage you to watch it on TV. NASA Select will carry it and I’m sure most of the Canadian broadcasters will carry it. It will be an exciting few months for Chris Hadfield and for Canada. Thank you very much.