Tag Archives: International Space Station

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

16 Mar

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

Happy 15th birthday Space Station!

19 Nov

Sing it with me: Happy birthday, ISS!

On November 20, 1998 the International Space Station (ISS) was born with the launch of the Zarya module from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 81 in Kazakhstan. Zarya is Russian for ‘dawn’ and it was given this name to signify the dawn of new international cooperation on the ISS project.

A couple short days later on December 4, 1998 the Space Shuttle Endeavour launched from Florida on mission STS-88 with the primary goal of connecting its cargo – the Unity module (Node 1) – to Zarya. On December 5 Unity and Zarya were connected, using the Shuttle’s Canadarm. On December 10, 1998 the hatch between Unity and Zarya was opened, and for the first time astronauts floated aboard the ISS. STS-88 also included three spacewalks to connect power systems between the two modules.

This first piece of construction was historically significant, though it was only the beginning of ISS construction. And it would be nearly two years before anyone could live up there.

In all, ISS construction required more than 25 Space Shuttle flights, some 150 spacewalks – adding up to more than 1000 hours of spacewalking!

In July 2000 the third component of the ISS launched from Russia, the Zvezda (Russian for ‘star’) Service Module. It was controlled remotely and docked with the ISS without any human presence aboard. On September 11, 2000 during Space Shuttle flight STS-106 astronauts on a spacewalk made the final connections to activate the module.

ISS construction during STS-116 in December 2006

ISS construction during STS-116 in December 2006

With Zvezda in place, the first crew on Expedition 1 arrived on November 2, 2000 and humans have been living aboard ever since – a record 13+ years. The previous record, held by Russian cosmonauts aboard Mir, was just less than 10 years (3,634 days).

STS-100 in April 2001 saw the installation of the ISS Robotic Arm – Canadarm2 – by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. This marked the major contribution to the ISS by the Canadian Space Agency, and I have since heard Hadfield brag that ‘Canadians built the ISS’, as Canadarm2 was vital to ISS construction as modules arrived from Earth.

Major construction of the ISS continued until STS-133 in March 2011, when NASA installed their last “room” – the Permanent Multipurpose Module, which is generally used for storage. Though additional components are continually being added or upgraded on the ISS, and this is expected to continue for years to come, the ISS is generally considered to have been ‘completed’ in 2011.

The ISS is currently funded up until 2020, though there are discussions it could remain functional and useful (and funded) up until 2028. Considering some of the historical hurdles that the ISS had to overcome (least of which was the Columbia disaster in 2003) just to make it this far, I am optimistic it still has a bright future.

Besides the unique research being done aboard the ISS everyday – it is after all the only laboratory that enjoys the perk of microgravity – there is speculation that the ISS could be used as a launching point for future missions to the Moon, asteroids, or even Mars.

It’s a remarkable example of human ingenuity and cooperation, as the ISS is generally considered the largest and most complicated piece of equipment humanity has ever built. Weighing in at 450,000 kg (just less than one million pounds), travelling 27,600 km/h, 400 km straight up, and the size of a football field, it is an amazing accomplishment.

Join in the worldwide celebration of the ISS 15th birthday by “waving” to the ISS and using the Twitter hashtag #ISS15.

I look forward to writing about the ISS, and its story of cooperation, achievement, and success for many years to come.

A brief photo history of the ISS:

Zarya Module (1998)

Zarya Module (1998)

Zarya (left) and Unity (1998)

Zarya (left) and Unity (1998)

Top to bottom: Unity, Zarya, Zvezda (2000)

Top to bottom: Unity, Zarya, Zvezda (2000)

US Solar Panels installed in 2000

US Solar Panels installed in 2000

Canadarm2 (2001)

Canadarm2 (2001)

The ISS in August 2005

The ISS in August 2005

The ISS in February 2008

The ISS in February 2008

The 'complete' ISS in 2011

The ‘complete’ ISS in 2011

Taking spaceflight for granted

27 Sep

SpaceX launch

SpaceX launch

Anyone who knows me in person or online knows that when there is a rocket launch, I get excited. I watch the launches. I tweet along. I post and share videos of them. I even flew to Florida once with a good friend to take in a Shuttle launch (Orbiter Atlantis on STS-132 in May 2010).

I watched with great interest last week when an Antares rocket blasted off to the International Space Station with the new Cygnus vessel. I kept a very close eye yesterday as a Soyuz soared into space with three new astronauts, also bound for humanity’s most distant outpost.

But following such things so closely puts me in a small – perhaps a very small – minority.

Is this because the majority of people don’t care about spaceflight and exploration?

I don’t think so.

Looking at recent missions that got significant attention, we don’t have to go too far back: Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield garnered significant attention from fans, on social media, and even in the mainstream media during his stay on the International Space Station.

Ditto NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity, when it landed on Mars in August 2012.

People all over the world are passionate about spaceflight, exploration, and discovery. People are interested when special things happen.

And that last sentence is the crux of why people don’t pay attention to spaceflight.

Spaceflight isn’t seen as “special” – it’s considered routine. And routine things don’t make the news or become the topics of water cooler conversations in your office.

STS-132 launches. Courtesy NASA.

STS-132 launches. Courtesy NASA.

Now for the scientists, engineers, mission planners, astronauts, administrators, and everyone else involved in putting spaceflight together this is a good thing. The fact that the public sees spaceflight as routine is a credit to just how good they are at their jobs. They’re so good, executing consistently with such a high degree of precision, that they are able to make exceptionally difficult tasks appear easy.

But there is a downside to this excellence: public apathy to what are, in reality, incredible feats.

Every time a rocket launches there are millions of things that could go wrong. Any one of those things could jeopardize the mission – and perhaps endanger lives.

But the public has come to (correctly) expect that nothing will go wrong. They expect to hear in passing that there was another successful launch and humanity’s exploration of space continues. Next story.

The public is taking spaceflight for granted.

But this is not a wise state of mind. Spaceflight is incredibly challenging to achieve – and when success is taken for granted people become careless. Limits are pushed. Things go wrong.

People close to missions know this. They work hard to stay focused to ensure everything works perfectly, every time.

I submit, humbly, that the public should remember this as well.

There is nothing routine about spaceflight, and a couple minutes on the evening news or a few minutes of discussion around the water cooler would be a valuable nod to all the people who have worked so very hard to make it look so very easy.

The New Background

14 Aug

If you’re wondering about the new background, it’s this image here:

ISS Earth Orbit

A blue marble in the background, along with humanity’s furthest reaching outpost floating in front.

I’m not positive what vehicle took this image, though I suspect it would have been astronauts on board a Space Shuttle. Some amazing ISS pictures (and Space Shuttle) pictures came out of the inspection passes that the Shuttle’s made, following the Columbia disaster.