Tag Archives: Chris Hadfield

STS-100: Canadarm2 takes flight

26 Apr
Canadarm2 catches a visiting SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Canadarm2 catches a visiting SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

As part of a special two-part special looking at STS-100 and the installation of Canadarm2, I conducted interviews with the Canadian Space Agency Flight Controller Supervisor Mathieu Caron and Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield. Part one of the special with Mathieu Caron aired April 27, 2015 (listen to the segment here) and part two with Chris Hadfield aired on May 4, 2015 (listen to that segment here).

York Universe airs live every Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET (1:00 a.m. UTC, Tuesday) on Astronomy.FM – the voice of astronomy on the internet.


STS-100 was a flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour from April 19-May 1, 2001 (11 days, 21 hours). The flight was commanded by Kent Rominger, piloted by Jeffrey Ashby, and carried five Mission Specialists: Chris Hadfield (CSA), John Phillips, Scott Parazynski, Umberto Guidoni (ESA), and Yuri Lonchakov (RKA).

It’s been suggested this flight was the pinnacle of Canada in space. And this is arguably true, though there have been several other significant Canadian missions to be sure: the launch of Alouette or Chris Hadfield commanding the ISS, to name only two possibilities. The point of this though is to highlight the importance of STS-100 to Canada and the international space community, rather than argue about which the ‘most’ important contribution is.

The primary goal of STS-100 was to deliver and install to the fledgling International Space Station the new robotic arm, Canadarm2. Along to head this effort was Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Chris Hadfield – and installing the next generation arm required two spacewalks for Hadfield and Parazynski. Hadfield’s EVA on STS-100 was also the first spacewalk in history for a Canadian.

In total, the pair spent 14 hours, 50 minutes ‘outside’ in order to accomplish the goal.

Chris Hadfield on the first Canadian spacewalk on April 22, 2001. (Credit: NASA)

Chris Hadfield on the first Canadian spacewalk on April 22, 2001. (Credit: NASA)

Canadarm2 is 17.6 m (58 feet) long and has seven powered joints. It weighs 1,800 kg and is capable of moving payloads up to 116,000 kg!

It can be controlled from on board the ISS, or remotely from robotics stations at mission control centres around the world, including the CSA’s John. H Chapman Space Centre just outside Montreal.


Canadarm2 was (of course) based on the design of the Space Shuttle Canadarm, first launched in 1981 on STS-2. Canadarm (1) was 15.2 m (50 feet) long. In all five Shuttle Canadarm’s were built, with a redesign in the 1990’s to increase the arms’ ability to move larger objects to support ISS construction (the strength was increased by an order of magnitude, going from 332.5 kg up to 3,293 kg).

Towards the end of STS-100 once Hadfield and Parazynski had completed its installation, Canadarm2 was powered up for the first time in space on April 28, 2001.

And Canadarm2’s first objective? Link up with the Shuttle Canadarm to return the new arms cargo palette to Endeavour’s cargo bay. It was a remarkable Canadian robotic handshake in space.

The Canadian Handshake: Canadarm and Canadarm2 connect in space for the first time on April 28, 2001. (Credit: NASA)

The Canadian Handshake: Canadarm and Canadarm2 connect in space for the first time on April 28, 2001. (Credit: NASA)

Since then, Canadarm2 has been invaluable in both the construction and operations of the ISS – including catching visiting cargo spacecraft and docking them to the station on a regular basis. It is not an exaggeration to say that the ISS would not have been able to have been constructed without Canadarm2.

Look back at STS-100 with the astronauts who flew the mission:

Canadarm2 is able to move itself around on the ISS by making use of either the Mobile Transporter (a rail structure that runs the length of the ISS) or by moving end-over-end, sort of like an inch-worm, and grappling Power Data Grapple Fixtures that provide a physical connection as well as electrical and data connectivity. With these two methods within arm’s reach, Canadarm2 is able to be work from any location along the ISS’s main truss.

Canadarm2 has also since been joined on the ISS by a second Canadian robotic handyman: DEXTRE, which arrived in March 2008 on STS-123 (read more about DEXTRE here).

With these innovations – and others – Canada is making a name for being a leader in space robotics, and STS-100 surely cemented that reputation.

Canadian space robots: DEXTRE catches a ride at the end of Canadarm2 on the ISS. (Credit: NASA)

Canadian space robots: DEXTRE catches a ride at the end of Canadarm2 on the ISS. (Credit: NASA)

Ukrainian dispute takes toll on space cooperation

5 Apr

A version of this article appeared on Saturday across the Sun Media chain.

Amid the ongoing dispute between Russia and the west over Ukrainian territory, the American government added their space agency to the list of government agencies prohibited from contacting Russian officials.

The International Space Station, which is the focus of NASA-Russian cooperation, is however exempt.

In a memo to employees, NASA Associate Administrator Michael O’Brien wrote, “This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or video conferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted.”

The internal memo was posted on the website NASAwatch.com

When asked for comment on the NASA-Russian relationship, the Canadian Space Agency provided the following statement: “While the Government views the current situation in the Ukraine with great concern, the Canadian Space Agency will continue to work with its Russian counterpart to ensure the safe and effective operation of the International Space Station.”

Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield also offered his take on the impact of the international dispute on space agencies.

“Both Russia and the United States, and all international partners (including Canada,) have huge multifaceted programs going in all different areas at the same time.

“It would be great if everybody was always together on everything, but we surely aren’t. This isn’t the only area of dispute between nations. Canada and the U.S. have areas that we dispute all the time, and yet we cooperate on most things,” he told me in a conversation we had on March 21.

Currently, three Russian cosmonauts, two U.S. astronauts and one Japanese astronaut are living aboard the orbital outpost. The International Space Station orbits 400km above the surface of the Earth at a speed of 28,000km/h.

Hadfield continued to explain his wide perspective on the issue, “You remember that I used to intercept Soviet bombers in Canadian airspace in the late ‘80s (as a Canadian Air Force pilot), and in ‘95 I helped build the Russian space station (during Space Shuttle mission STS-74)”.

Hadfield has flown into space three times: in 1995, 2001, and most recently in 2012-2013.

His first two flights were aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle. His five month flight in ’12-13 was to the International Space Station, which utilized a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft. His stint on board the station also included becoming the first Canadian to command the outpost in March 2013.

He also explained that the International Space Station program is not being driven by politics over a, “thousand-year-old dispute,” and called the orbiting laboratory, “a visible example of cooperation.”

In response to NASA’s decision to cut ties with Russian counterparts, Scott Pace, director of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute told Reuters, “If we want to express our opposition to their actions I hope that we would choose other instruments.”

11 things you may not have known about Chris Hadfield’s time in space

16 Mar

feathadfield
This article also appeared on Sun News Network, Canoe.ca, The Toronto Sun, and other Sun Media properties to celebrate the first anniversary of Chris Hadfield becoming ISS commander on March 13, 2013.


After arriving on the International Space Station on Dec. 21, 2012, Chris Hadfield took the reins of command on March 13, 2013 — becoming the first and only Canadian to command humanity’s most distant outpost. During the mission, Hadfield flew nearly 100 million kilometres during a five-month stay in space.

Here are 11 things you might not know about his time in space:

1. Hadfield has flown into space three times: On the Space Shuttle Atlantis in November 1995, on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in April 2001, and to the International Space Station from December 2012 – May 2013.


2. Hadfield was the first and only Canadian to board the Russian space station Mir while in orbit, which he did during the STS-74 mission in November 1995. On this mission, Chris was also the first Canadian to operate the Space Shuttle’s Canadarm while in space.


Haruna, a large and powerful tropical cyclone, wreaks clockwise destruction across Madagascar. @Cmdr_Hadfield tweeted Feb. 23, 2013.

3. During Hadfield’s first spacewalk — the first spacewalk for any Canadian — on mission STS-100 in April 2001, he was temporarily blinded when his spacesuit’s anti-fog solution got into his eyes. He recovered after about 30 minutes and successfully completed his mission, which was to install the new Canadarm2 on the ISS. Over two spacewalks he spent nearly 15 hours “outside”.

4. During Hadfield’s time on the ISS, he gained about 950,000 followers on Twitter.

5. Hadfield filmed the first music video ever made in space: his version of David Bowie’s 1969 hit Space Oddity. Before recording though, Chris asked his son Evan to re-write the lyrics to exclude the lines about the astronaut dying. The video debuted on YouTube on the eve of Hadfield’s return to Earth (May 13, 2013) and today has more than 22 million views. On his own Facebook page, David Bowie posted, “It’s possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created.”

6. Hadfield has spent a total of 166 days in space, including 14 hours 53 minutes and 38 seconds of time “outside” on his two spacewalks in April 2001.

7. Hadfield unveiled Canada’s new $5 note from space on April 30, 2013 while he was aboard the ISS. The new bill features two Canadian-built robots: Canadarm2 and the satellite-fixing DEXTRE. The note also features an image of Hadfield from his 2001 spacewalk.

8. Hadfield was the first, and to this date only, Canadian ever to be commander of the International Space Station. He took command on March 13, 2013, and held it until his return to Earth on May 13, 2013.


9. The now infamous Toronto Maple Leafs collapse in Game 7 versus the Boston Bruins in the 2013 NHL playoffs took place while Hadfield was re-entering the atmosphere on his return to Earth. Hadfield — a die-hard Leafs fan — had even substituted his NASA-regulation undershirt for a Maple Leafs T-shirt for his fiery return to Earth. The first phone call he made after landing was to his wife, who had to break the news about the Leafs loss via satellite phone.


10. Hadfield, while ISS Commander, surprised his crewmates with an Easter Egg hunt for the holiday in 2013.

11. Hadfield was the fourth Canadian to fly in space when he first flew in 1995 (Marc Garneau: 1984, Roberta Bondar: 1992, Steve MacLean: 1992). He is one of two Canadians to visit space three times (Garneau: 1984, 1996, 2000), and one of nine Canadians to venture to the final frontier at least once (trained astronauts: Garneau, Bondar, MacLean, Robert Thirsk, Bjarni Tryggvason, Dave Williams, Julie Payette, Hadfield; Cirque founder Guy Laliberte bought a ticket to the ISS in 2009).

— On Twitter: @HarrisonRuess

Cleaning a spill on the ISS

6 Mar

I had a little fun with this one…


But it is an important concern for astronauts living on the International Space Station. Here is Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield showing how astronauts clean up spills while in orbit:

PS: my ‘taxes’ joke in the tweet above referes to this video by Chris and comedian Rick Mercer.