The Chris Hadfield Story

The following article is a free sample from the current issue of Space Quarterly Magazine. It is our hope that if you enjoy this article you will consider subscribing to the magazine.

By Randy Attwood
In August 2012, when asked to share his thoughts about the late Neil Armstrong, Chris Hadfield explained that the Apollo 11 mission had a major impact on his life. While watching the first moonwalk, he decided that he wanted to become an astronaut and maybe one day, command a spaceship.
Chris Hadfield
At the time, Canada did not have an astronaut program. In spite of this, Hadfield set a series of goals: to learn to fly, to obtain a degree in engineering, and to become a test pilot. These are skills he felt he would need if, someday, Canadians were offered the chance to fly in space.
Chris became and Air Cadet and learned to fly gliders and powered aircraft. He studied engineering at the Royal Military College and then earned a master’s degree in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1978, and flew CF-18 intercept fighters for the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD). He attended flight test school at Edwards Air Force Base in California, flight testing F/A-18 and A-7 aircraft and served as an exchange officer with the U. S. Navy at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.
Meanwhile, Canada became involved with the space shuttle program and began to fly astronauts in 1984. When the Canadian Space Agency began searching for a second group of astronauts in 1992, Hadfield applied and was accepted.
During his first flight, STS 74 in 1995, Hadfield rendezvoused and docked with the Russian space station MIR. Hadfield’s role was to use the Canadarm to position a special docking tunnel onto the shuttle’s airlock. This would be used to dock with MIR and would be left onboard. On this mission, Hadfield could be seen playing a guitar, which he had brought up to leave on the ISS for future visitors.
Hadfield’s second mission was critical for the construction of the ISS and for Canada. He was part of a space-walking duo who unloaded and deployed Canada’s new robot arm. Canadarm2. Since then, the Canadarm2 has been used to put all the pieces of the space station together. Without Canadarm2, the space station would not have been built.
Now, 20 years after becoming an astronaut, Hadfield has been in space for a total of only 20 days. He is looking forward to an extended visit to the space station and to making it his home for several months. He is also looking forward to becoming the first Canadian commander of the ISS.
Chris has a lot of support on the home front. During his leisure time, he enjoys playing guitar and singing. He is married to wife Helene. They have three children – Kyle(29), Evan(27) and Kristin(26).
The Crew
Joining Hadfield on Expedition 34/35 are Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and American astronaut Tom Marshburn. Romanenko comes from a spaceflight family; his father, Yuri Romanenko, was a cosmonaut and spent a total of 420 days in space. Roman Romanenko has flown in space once before and has long-term experience on the ISS: he was on Expedition 20/21 and spent 187 days in space. Also on Expedition 20/21 was Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk, who, to date, is the only Canadian to have had a long-term stay on the ISS.
Chris Hadfield
Left image: Expedition 34 crew members. Front row (L-R): NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, commander, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, flight engineer. Back row (L-R): Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy, Evgeny Tarelkin, Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, all flight engineers. Right image: Expedition 35 crew members. Front row (L-R): Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, flight engineer, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield,commander. Back row (L-R): Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, all flight engineers.Credit: NASA
Marshburn is a physician and served as a flight surgeon to shuttle astronauts before becoming an astronaut himself. Marshburn flew to the ISS on STS 127. On that mission, he performed three spacewalks to support the installation of Kibo, the Japanese module.
The three have been training together for over a year. They were also the backup crew for Expedition 32, which launched in the summer of 2011 and returned to Earth November 18, 2011. As of press time, Hadfield’s crew will launch in Soyuz TMA-07M on December 19, 2012, at 7:12 a.m. EST and dock with the ISS two days later, on December 21. They should spend about five months on orbit, returning in mid-May 2013.
Space Quarterly asked Hadfield why he thought this crew was named to fly together:
“It’s always a mixture of skills, timing, luck, and expediency; in our case, it ended up being an excellent mix. Tom and I did survival training together in Wyoming, and we lived on the bottom of the ocean together (on NEEMO)… I was backup for the crew that Roman was on. They look at the names, and see what the three of us have done and where we are in our careers, so I [put it down to] good management and some good luck.”
The schedule calls for Hadfield’s crew to return to Earth May 16, 2013, but this could change. When the current Expedition 33/34 crew of Kevin Ford, Oleg Novitskiy, and Evgeny Tarelkin return to Earth in mid-March 2013, Hadfield will become the ISS commander. A few weeks later, the Expedition 35/36 crew of Pavel Vinogradov, Chris Cassidy, and Alexander Misurkin will join Hadfield’s crew to bring the crew complement back up to six. Hadfield trained with Vinogradov in the early 1990s when he trained for his MIR mission.
Astronauts preparing to spend months on the ISS are required to train at the various ISS partner headquarters: Japan, Germany, Russia, United States, and Canada. Hadfield is qualified to maintain the various countries’ lab modules (Kibo, Japan; Columbus, ESA; and Destiny, United States). In addition, he is qualified to perform the various experiments that are in each module.
“We train at three levels: user, operator, and specialist. The Americans train on everything in the U.S. segment, and the Russians train on the Russian segment. I am a specialist on everything in the U.S. segment. I have to be at an operator level on everything in the Russian part because I need to know what’s going on as the commander. When it comes to something like the motion control system, where there is a lot of crossover between the two segments, then I need to have an understanding of both. There is a lot of crossover but we don’t want to spend our entire lives training… If something in the Russian part is breaking, I know that Roman can go fix it with minimum help from us.
“We use Renglish [a combination of Russian and English]. Roman is a willing and eager student of English. Tom and I speak Russian to Roman and he speaks English to us. We fly the Soyuz purely in Russian. We use Russian or English, depending on where we are in the station.”

To train for this mission, Hadfield became familiar with flying the Soyuz spacecraft from launch to orbit, rendezvousing with the ISS, and flying safely back to Earth. He will act as Soyuz flight engineer, and Romanenko will be the Soyuz commander. As a Soyuz flight engineer, Hadfield could fly the Soyuz back to Earth on his own if necessary.
The TMA-M version of the Soyuz is relatively new. It is an upgraded version with new guidance, navigation and control equipment. Two years ago, before being assigned to the crew, Hadfield was involved in developing the training manual for the new Soyuz. The challenge is that, when flying the Soyuz, all communications and training manuals are in Russian.
“It’s a very complicated vehicle, and the new one is quite different than the previous one, even though the mold line of the vehicle is similar. We’ve been working with the Russians, with the trainers directly, and with my other crewmates … to understand the details and to record them all. … [We will] increase our understanding, and build how-to documents, one-pagers, and lessons learned. Through all of those, I think I’ve contributed to making it readily understandable and easy to learn for each of the subsequent astronauts. I think it has been a really worthwhile investment. We only improve our capabilities to have done that.”
In addition, the crew will use the Canadarm2 to grab visiting unmanned spacecraft, such as the SpaceX Dragon and the Orbital Antares. Both are scheduled to visit the ISS during Hadfield’s flight.
Although there are no scheduled spacewalks during this flight, Hadfield and Marshburn spent many hours practicing various maintenance activities in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, where an entire space station replica is underwater. During a spacewalk practice, they perform several different repair and maintenance tasks that they may encounter on orbit. During the previous mission, Expedition 33, astronauts Suni Williams and Aki Hoshide had to perform three unscheduled spacewalks to repair external power and cooling systems.
Much of the training is to ensure that the astronauts can handle the “what if” scenarios. The space station is complete, and many parts of it are already getting old. The first section, Zarya, was lifted into orbit 14 years ago. It is not uncommon for ISS astronauts to spend time fixing toilets or mechanisms that add oxygen to the atmosphere or remove carbon dioxide. Water onboard the ISS is scarce, so urine is converted into water using a complex mechanism. The saying on the station is that yesterday’s coffee is tomorrow’s coffee. The critical systems all break down, so training includes how to fix these vital machines.
Before the crew is allowed to fly, they must be qualified. Qualification involves passing exams on all aspects of running the space station and flying the Soyuz to and from Earth orbit.
Before Expedition 32 launched in May 2012, Hadfield’s crew had to be fully qualified to fly, just in case they were called upon to take the place of the primary crew. Space Quarterly asked Hadfield how the crew remained sharp and ready to fly on their primary mission six months later:
“We simulate, and we simulate again and again and we requalify. We have to get fully requalified again in November and early December in order to fly. The qualifications only last a certain number of days. We’ve requalified on the arm and in the pool for space walking. I am going to Europe–I finished in Japan–and then I’m going to Russia with the Russian segment and the Soyuz.”
Chris Hadfield
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield strikes a pose during a photo session with the media at a Soyuz vehicle mock-up last summer at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. Credit: NASA
Life Onboard Station
The daily schedule on the station consists of the following:
station maintenance – keeping the ISS running smoothly, fixing things that break, performing spacewalks (planned and unplanned), cleaning the station, unloading supplies from unmanned spacecraft, loading garbage and unwanted equipment onto the spacecraft that are going to be destroyed upon reentry for disposal or if the unmanned spacecraft is a Dragon, loading equipment and experiment results to be examined on the ground,
personal time – eating, sleeping, communicating with home through email, or telephone, photographing and watching the Earth go by from the cupola, watching videos, and reading,
performing experiments and
In order to combat the effects of microgravity, the astronauts need to exercise two hours a day.
Space Quarterly asked Hadfield about what we have learned about combating the effects of microgravity:
“We have learned to keep people healthy physically since the first ISS crew. The amount of bone mass and muscle they lose is much less now, given the small changes in diet and significant changes in the exercise equipment that were made up there. The crews are coming back as strong and their bones are as hard as when they launched. We are learning as we go. Psychological support is better compared to the MIR days, when we were just trying to figure out what crews needed to stay that long on orbit. We are learning how it is to leave Earth and explore for a long time. We are learning those lessons when we are not too far away. When we send the first people beyond the Moon, we will be relying very heavily on the lessons we learned on the space station.”
The International Space Station is a modern research laboratory, filled with over 100 experiments from over 30 countries. Investigations are conducted in areas of biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science; human and the physical sciences; technology demonstrations and education.
As part of Hadfield’s responsibilities, he will work on the following Canadian experiments:
BCAT-C1 is a follow-up experiment of an experiment that was performed on the ISS in 2009-2010. BCAT-C1 will study how nano-sized particles behave when dispersed in a special liquid. In a 1g environment, these particles settle and separate, like oil and water. On the ISS, the particles can be studied as they self-assemble into crystals. Results may provide new insights into everything from polishing silicon to filtering fruit juice. The principal investigators of BCAT-C1 are Barbara Frisken, a physics professor at Simon Fraser University, and Art Bailey, of Canadian-based Scitech Instruments, Inc.
BP-Reg will monitor astronauts’ blood pressure to predict the risk of fainting on Earth after long-duration spaceflights.
Microflow is a medical experiment that could have far-reaching implications on Earth. Microflow will analyze cell samples and provide near real-time diagnoses. Such technology may diagnose everything from infections to cancer markers on space missions far from medical facilities, as well as in remote communities on Earth.
Led by principle investigators Dr. Ozzy Mermut from INO, an optics and photonics organization, and Dr. Luchino Cohen from the CSA, the Microflow team built a device that suspends particles in a minuscule amount of liquid inside a small, fiber-optic structure that is permanently focused. Once the particles are detected in this structure, the device transfers the collected data to a USB key for analysis.
This technology could be used in remote communities to provide critical medical information to a teleconference doctor.
RaDI-N2 will give a better understanding of astronauts’ exposure to potentially dangerous neutron radiation.
Let’s Talk Science, an award-winning, national, non-profit, science outreach organization has organized a way for students across Canada to perform their own experiments. Using special detectors, the students will be able to measure neutron radiation and compare their results with other classes across Canada and with the results on the ISS. One class will chat with Chris during his stay and discuss the experiment and their results.
Vascular will study the impact of long-duration spaceflight on blood vessels and offer insights into how bed-ridden patients on Earth are affected by cardiovascular disease.
Astronauts returning from several months onboard the ISS show calcium loss from their bones, muscle atrophy, and a temporary loss of the sense of up and down. In addition, their blood vessels are stiffer, which is similar to what happens to us on Earth with normal aging.
The Vascular study will study the effects of microgravity on the cardiovascular system of astronauts onboard the ISS. Dr. Richard Hughson of the University of Waterloo leads the Vascular science team, which is funded by the CSA and supported by NASA.
Hughson believes that space can be used to test potential solutions for combating this disabling disease, not only for space travelers but everyday Canadians. “We are hoping from these astronauts to not only get a better understanding of these mechanisms that might cause changes in their bodies, but also have a much better focus on what we can do to prevent similar cardiovascular aging in the general population here on Earth.” According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, there are approximately 70,000 heart attacks per year in Canada. The Vascular study could provide new information concerning factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Vascular’s findings may also be important for future long-duration space travel, such as a three-year round-trip to Mars.
Leisure Time in Orbit
During the training, Hadfield has shared his experiences through his Twitter account, @Cmdr_Hadfield. He has given his followers a background look and an interesting perspective on his training, travels, and challenges. Through these tweets, we have witnessed the life of a modern astronaut–flying around the world to study in the various ISS partners’ countries, being poked, prodded, and wired to comply with scientific experiments, long hours of study and simulation, flying high-performance jets, meeting rock stars, and spending time with school children.
Hadfield says we can expect this kind of coverage during and after his flight:
“I’ll be continuing to try and share it as best I can through all the various methods and to provide daily insight into what they’ve got me doing. I’ll be doing that prior, during, and afterwards.”
Public Participation
The CSA has organized a series of contests and ways for the Canadian public to participate in Hadfield’s mission.
World Tour Photo Challenge
In the Chris Hadfield World Tour Photo Challenge, Canadians were invited to use either small or life-sized two-dimensional cardboard cutouts of Chris Hadfield to create special photos. Small Hadfield images could be downloaded, and life-sized Hadfield cutouts were available at science centers across the country. Canadians were invited to take their picture with Hadfield or take him on travels around the world and upload pictures to the CSA website.
You can view the photos on the CSA website and vote on them. The three pictures with the most votes will win a mission T-shirt signed by Hadfield. The winner will have the chance to meet Hadfield virtually during a private discussion through a webcast after the mission.
Canadian Snacks for Space
In 2011, Canadians were invited to submit suggestions for snacks that Hadfield could take on his flight to share with the other astronauts.
The winners included candied wild smoked salmon, dried apple chunks, fruit bars, orange zest with green tea cookies, maple syrup cookies, chocolate, honey drops, and a hemp-based organic cereal called “Holy Crap”.
“We had Canadian food tasting before flight. The crew ordered some of this food specifically for themselves. I ordered almost all of my bonus packs to be Canadian food so I can have extras for people. It’s important to space them out over the duration of the flight, so when someone is having a down day, things are really busy, or the food is getting a little monotonous, there is the option to try a different taste and to give people a break. The Russians and Americans do the same, but I am definitely looking forward to bringing the variety of Canadian food up with me.”
The Canadian Science Challenge
The CSA has invited young Canadian scientists to submit science experiments to test a theory in a microgravity environment on the space station. The experiment must consist of materials already available on the ISS (a list is provided on the CSA website), and the preparation, performance, and takedown of the experiment must take no more than 20 minutes.
The contest is open to Canadians under 19 years of age. The winner will see his or her experiment performed by Hadfield during his stay on the ISS.
Education Programs
Although CSA budget cuts have all but eliminated the development of new education programs, educators at the CSA have developed elementary and secondary school programs for teachers to use during the Hadfield mission.
The programs are computer-based, interactive 3D education resources that simulate the experience of flying on a Soyuz spacecraft and living and working on the ISS. The students act as avatars along with avatar astronaut Chris Hadfield to learn about the role of plants in biological life support systems; they create a virtual living wall inside the ISS. Or students could learn about Newton’s laws of motion by experiencing launch, orbiting, and docking simulations that pertain to spaceflight.
Quizzes pertaining to Hadfield, Expedition 34/35, and the ISS are on the CSA’s website.
Music Monday 2013
Chris Hadfield is a musician; he plays guitar in two astronaut bands. There just happens to be a Canadian guitar onboard the ISS, which Chris intends to play. In addition, Hadfield and Barenaked Ladies front man Ed Robertson have collaborated to write a song for Music Monday 2013.
Music Monday is an annual event where thousands of Canadians meet and sing the same song at the same time. Sponsored by the Coalition for Music Education, the 2013 event will take place on Monday, May 6. The song is called “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)” and will be recorded by Hadfield onboard the ISS beforehand. The recording will be made available for choirs across Canada to use so they can sing along with Hadfield.
Some Hadfield Thoughts
…on being a commander and whether the crew needs to spend time together at the end of the work day:
“That will depend on how everybody is doing. My job as the commander is to try and gauge that. Sometimes what people really need is to be left alone, and sometimes what they really need is support and shared time. I will be watching and doing my best to make sure that people are getting what they need and are staying as happy psychologically as they can up there. I’ve got plans for all of that so that during our six months we can support each other and come back feeling just as healthy and happy as anybody can hope.”
…on what he wants to do after he retires from spaceflight:
“I look at the things that give me the most pleasure now and make me feel like I am contributing. It’s a combination of supporting spaceflight and teaching. I’ve been an astronaut 20 years and been in space 20 days, so my job has been very much in supporting other people flying in space. And I’ve been an instructor for space walking and robotics, for crew coordination and commander leadership, and rendezvous and docking for a decade. Of course, I’ve taught at Canadians schools through my whole career.”
“And also using the expertise I’ve gained to make spaceflight more capable and safer.
I think no matter where I am, I’m going to try and do the things I believe in and the things I think I’ve gathered skills in. I expect to do those things in various ways throughout the rest of my life, no matter who my employer is or where I’m doing them.”

More: SpaceRef Chris Hadfield Feature

The following article is a free sample from the current issue of Space Quarterly Magazine. It is our hope that if you enjoy this article you will consider subscribing to the magazine.
Space Quarterly Magazine - December 2012 Issue Available Now

About Randy Attwood

Amateur astronomer, astrophotographer, space exploration historian. Executive Director, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada / Publisher - SkyNews magazine.

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