Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield ready to rock the ISS
John Size, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, February 23, 2012 12:45PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:32AM EDT
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is looking forward to a profound musical experience and he might even record an album when he blasts off for the International Space Station later this year.
Hadfield, 52, is a musician who plays in several bands in what little spare time he has between training sessions for the upcoming mission, where he will serve as the first Canadian commander of the space station.
Luckily, there's a guitar that was actually made in Vancouver that's been at the station for more than 10 years, so he won't have to abandon his musical interests for the duration of the six-month mission that begins in December.
"This will be the first time a Canadian has a chance to play it up there," Hadfield told CTV's Canada AM Thursday via Skype as he took a break from training in Russia.
"I'm really looking forward to it, if you can imagine floating weightless, watching the world pour by through the big bay window of the space station playing a guitar… just a tremendous place to think about where we are in history," he said from Star City.
Star City was once a top-secret Soviet military installation dating back to the 1960s where cosmonauts trained for missions during the Cold War space race with the United States.
Hadfield said there's a big difference in the training for the Soyuz ship compared to the now-retired U.S. shuttles.
On this mission, he will help pilot the Soyuz spacecraft to the space station where it will dock for the entire length of the mission before being used as a return capsule.
"I fly it with the Russian commander and he's sitting tight in the middle and I'm sort of wedged in on his right shoulder . . . it's a pretty small spaceship," Hadfield said.
Hadfield, the first Canadian to float freely in space and a veteran of two space shuttle missions (1995 and 2001), will serve as flight engineer for the first three months of the six-month mission before taking over command of the space station for the final three.
The space station that orbits the planet is fairly spacious inside, Hadfield said, much like putting two big airliners together.
"It's got about that much volume inside. It's really just huge laboratories . . . it's a bunch of laboratories hooked together," he said.
There's a crew of six on the space station working seven days a week keeping experiments going and operating the robotic Canadarm to hook onto unmanned supply ships that service the station, he said.
Astronauts may also be required to go outside the station for spacewalk to make repairs from time to time, Hadfield said.
The busy schedule is due to the many roles astronauts must play, he explained, including working as scientists, doctors, plumbers and even hardware repair specialists.
Astronauts must also exercise at least two hours a day, and when time permits they can contact friends and family on the ground to catch up on news.
"It's not like people go up there and relax, there's a little time off to pursue hobbies, but it's a busy place and we're up there for our six months trying to get as much done as we can," he said.
Hadfield is a retired colonel from the Canadian Armed Forces and commanded a 13-day underwater mission off Key Largo, Fla., in 2010 that trained astronauts for space flight.
He will also help train two new Canadian astronauts – David St-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen – to give Canada a head start for further space missions once his work is completed.