Published On: Wed, Dec 19th, 2012

Canadian Chris Hadfield heads into space for 3rd time

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Canadian Chris Hadfield heads into space for 3rd timeWhen Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield heads into space this morning, it will be aboard a variation of a spacecraft that has been in use since 1966 — a Soyuz.

Hadfield, American Tom Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko are expected to lift off at 7:12 a.m. ET, which is 6:12 p.m. local time in the freezing steppes of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where temperatures have been hovering at about –30 C.

The current Soyuz is an upgraded version of the unmanned spacecraft first used by the Soviet space program in 1966.

“Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s worse,” noted Hadfield, 53, in a TV interview with the CBC’s Bob McDonald. “Sometimes, if it’s good enough, let’s just build another one of those because it works pretty well.”

All three have been in Baikonur for the past two weeks in preparation for the trip, which includes a two-day journey to the International Space Station, where they will be in orbit for six months. Hadfield will take over command of the ISS in March — the first time a Canadian has done so.

“Yes I’ll take it seriously and yes it’s important for Canada, but for me as just a Canadian kid, it makes me want to shout and laugh and do cartwheels,” Hadfield told CBC News recently.

The Milton, Ont., native still can’t believe what he’s about to do.

“You expect someone to come in and go, ‘Wait a minute, you aren’t a guy that could command a spaceship, come on.’ You expect to get busted by somebody because it’s just such an unlikely thing to ever happen in your life, and so it absolutely thrills me just as a person.”

Influences include Star Trek

For Hadfield, it’s a pinnacle of achievement that’s been 20 years in the making.

A Canadian Forces fighter pilot with a mechanical engineering degree from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., Hadfield was chosen to become one of four new Canadian astronauts in 1992.

Since then, he’s flown on two NASA space shuttle flights and was the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in orbit. He has done two spacewalks, and was the first Canadian to float freely in space. Training for the space station mission has consumed the past four years.

Among his many influences, he names the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the TV series Star Trek, recalling that one of his childhood heroes was fictional: “You know, James Tiberius Kirk commanding the Enterprise.”

Hadfield says he didn’t need another space flight for personal fulfilment.

“I instead feel an obligation to fulfil this role, to do this thing right. I would not have felt hard done by if I didn’t get a third space flight.”

Nonetheless, he is going on another space journey and orbiting for six months — quite long for a human body, which means the muscles, the heart and bones tend to atrophy.

Canadian Bob Thirsk — who flew on Columbia in 1996 and then spent six months in 2009 on the space station — said that when he returned to Earth he had “difficulty maintaining blood pressure” and felt ”woozy and fatigued.”

Thirsk said his balance, orientation and spatial judgments were off for about two weeks.

Space music

One of the things, Hadfield is looking forward to aboard the ISS is a special song set to premiere on Feb. 8, which will be featured on CBC-TV, radio and CBCMusic.ca

“It’ll be really nice to be able to play music, to try and capture the experience as best I can,” Hadfield said of his song about space flight, Is Somebody Singing? or ISS, which he wrote with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies.

Starting in January, CBCMusic will team up with Hadfield and Robertson to produce a series of blog posts, behind the scene photo galleries and playlists.

(CBC News)

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