Hadfield makes history as first Canadian ISS commander
Published Wednesday, March 13, 2013 8:58AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 13, 2013 5:43PM EDT
Astronaut Chris Hadfield made history Wednesday when he became the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.
Hadfield officially took over the reins from U.S. astronaut Kevin Ford just after 5 p.m. ET in a brief ceremony aboard the ISS that included a broadcast of ‘O Canada.’
“We’re very proud of Chris, we’re very proud of Canada as a partner,” Ford said in his last remarks as commander.
Hadfield said the historic moment was “an honour and a privilege,” not just for him but also his colleagues at the Canadian Space Agency and all of Canada.
“Thank you very much for giving me the keys to the family car,” he jokingly told Ford.
Earlier Wednesday, Hadfield said a congratulatory message from Queen Elizabeth II made his "jaw drop" -- even in the weightless environment of space.
The Queen offered her congratulations ahead of the transition, a gesture Hadfield said on Twitter left him "amazed and humbled."
"I am pleased to transmit my personal best wishes, and those of all Canadians, to Col. Christopher Hadfield as he takes command of the International Space Station on Wednesday," the Queen said in a statement on her website.
"Our thoughts and best wishes are with him and the entire crew, as are our prayers for an eventual safe return to family, friends and fellow Canadians."
The transition marksonly the second time someone other than an American or Russian has held the top job aboard the ISS. The only other non-Russian or American astronaut to command the ISS was Frank De Winne of Belgium.
In a recent interview with Canada AM, Hadfield said the thought of taking command was "surreal" and "amazing for me to even contemplate."
"I can accept the reality of it, but in my heart it's still kind of daunting and surreal," he said.
Hadfield has been at the ISS since Dec. 21, 2012, conducting experiments and outreach as part of the international crew.
He has become a Twitter sensation during his time in space, posting stunning pictures of Earth and commenting on his experience looking down on the planet from orbit.
"Weightlessness is a constant delight -- we're able to fly. Makes me smile," Hadfield recently tweeted, along with a picture of himself hovering in a cannonball position.
The astronaut has also posted pictures of Vancouver, Saskatoon and Portage la Prairie, as well as locations around the world including Havana, Central Asia, Mt. Fuji and Belarus -- even photographing an active volcano spewing smoke and ash into the sky.
Hadfield has also documented life on board the ISS and captured images of Canadarm2 and Dragon, the space capsule that delivers fresh supplies to the astronauts.
He now has over half a million followers.
Hadfield has also made use of the technology that provides a near crystal-clear video and voice connection with Earth, for live interviews with media and student groups. He’s also spoken with Canadian actor and former Star Trek star William Shatner, and even recorded a song from space with Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson.
But the 53-year-old native of Sarnia, Ont. may have less time to photograph, tweet and connect with home now that he’s leading the space mission.
Hadfield became the 35th commander of the ISS, responsible for the safety of an international crew of six astronauts.
He may also operate Canadarm2, which is used to capture incoming capsules and assemble equipment, and will maintain equipment aboard the ISS and oversee scientific experiments.
He told Canada AM he will be busy, but said that won't stop him from continuing to share about his experience, even if it means sacrificing sleep in order to do so.
"I'm not going to spend my evenings and spare time watching movies or not being productive, that's not why people put me here, that's not what I want to do...I want to live this experience as fully as I can, share it with Earth in real time and also absorb it as completely as I can so I can reflect it back and reflect on it," he said.
The current mission marks Hadfield's third trip to space. In 2001 he became the first Canadian to walk in space, installing the Canadarm2 at the ISS. He also visited the Russian space station Mir in 1995, becoming the only Canadian to ever do so.