Canadian Astronaut on Deck To Command Space Station

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Astronaut Chris Hadfield will become the first Canadian to command a spaceship when he takes the helm of the international space station in 2013.

Hadfield, 52, is a veteran of two space shuttle flights. He will launch on a Russian Soyuz vehicle in November and take over control of the space station’s Expedition 35 mission the following March. One of nine Canadians to fly in space, he will be the first to serve as commander.

“It’s important for Canada: We have reached a level where we’re not just respected but intrinsically counted on,” Hadfield said Feb. 18 in an interview. “There is no higher responsibility on the space station than commanding it. The trust is there, and the route that got us there has been established.”

Hadfield currently is spending most of his time in Russia preparing for the mission, but he took time off to return to Canada to meet the public at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The spaceflier is a native of Milton, Ontario, and is a retired colonel in the Canadian Air Force. He was chosen as one of four new Canadian astronauts in 1992.

In addition to flying on two NASA space shuttle missions — in 1995 and 2001 — Hadfield commanded a 13-day underwater mission off Key Largo, Fla., in 2010 that trained astronauts for spaceflight.

Hadfield, who moonlights as the lead singer in two bands when he is not flying in space, plans to record a full album during his six months on the orbiting outpost.

“I want to write some lullabies up there — a space lullaby would be nice,” Hadfield said. “The first guys on the way to Mars will hopefully be listening to some of the music we write.”

He will be leading a crew that also includes three Russian cosmonauts and two NASA astronauts.

“My number one goal of this flight is for this to be the best six months of their life,” Hadfield said. “I want them to stay healthy and happy the whole time. We have a guitar onboard and we have poetry onboard, and the photographic capability to capture the experience. That is the part of it I want to promote and support, and bring back a group of people that absolutely treasure the time we have.”