Commander Chris Hadfield

by Wendy Jewell from The My Hero Project

Commander Chris Hadfield (Canadian Space Agency ())
Commander Chris Hadfield
NASA / Public Domain via Wikimedia


Chris Austin Hadfield OC OOnt MSC CD was the first Canadian astronaut to take over as Commander on the International Space Station and hee was the first Canadian to perform extravehicular activity in outer space. He has flown two Space Shuttle missions and also served as commander of the International Space Station.

He is known for making science fun and accessible for students and adults all around the world with his tweets from the International Space Station while circling Earth. He took social media by storm, especially on Twitter where he went from a few thousand followers in the fall of 2012 before liftoff, to 756,558 followers in 2015. He tweeted pictures taken through the window of the Space Station from Cairo, Egypt to the Australian outback, from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, Canada to Bordeaux, France, from Capetown, South Africa to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil to Tokyo, Japan and so many more.

From his command post in space, he transmitted into classrooms around the world, tweeted photos of almost every country he has flown over, exchanged flying tips with Captain James Kirk from the iconic Star Trek TV series from the 60s, and created short films on subjects as varied as, crying in space, taking pictures in space, the Hadfield Shake, how do you sprinkle salt and pepper in space? (We squirt salt water and pepper oil) and many more.  He has also teamed up with Bare Naked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson to write and record a duet in support of music education.


East coast of Africa Sand and Water (Twitter (Chris Hadfield))
Hadfield in the International Space Station
NASA/Chris Hadfield / Public Domain via Wikimedia


So who is this guitar-strumming space guy who says that the creativity and improvisation connected to music has made him a better astronaut?

Chris Hadfield was born in 1959 in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada and raised on a southern Ontario corn farm.  Interested in flight from an early age, this Air Cadet had already won scholarships to pilot gliders by the age of 15. An avid skier, ski racer and teacher, Hadfield eventually joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1978.  He went on to graduate in 1982 with honors, receiving a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and later trained as a fighter pilot. After a 3-year stint flying CF-18s for NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), Chris went on to the United States Air Force (USAF) School for Test Pilots at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  From 1989 - 1992, Hadfield flew and tested more than 70 different types of aircraft. Quite an accomplishment for a kid from a farm in Canada.

In 1992, his dream to be an astronaut came true when he was selected from 5330 applicants from across the country to become just one of four new Canadian astronauts. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) lent him to NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas that same year and the rest is history.  Some of his many accomplishments, while at NASA, include the "development of the glass shuttle cockpit, support for the shuttle launches at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and being named NASA's Chief CapCom, the voice of mission control to astronauts in orbit for 25 space shuttle missions." For four years starting in 1996, Hadfield coordinated activities for and represented CSA astronauts as Chief Astronaut of the CSA.


Storm brewing over North Pacific from Space (Canadian Space Agency (Commander Chris Hadfield))
Hadfield practices shuttle RMS controls
NASA / Public Domain via Picryl


Then Chris went to Star City, Russia from 2001 - 2003, where he directed operations on behalf of NASA at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC).  "His work included coordination and direction of all International Space Station crew activities in Russia, oversight of new training and crew support staff, as well as policy negotiation with the Russian Space Program and other International Partners." It was here that he trained in the Russian Orlan spacesuit to be able to perform spacewalks, which would later become very handy for him.

Chris Hadfield became a civilian CSA astronaut in 2003, after serving for 25 years with the Canadian Air Force. For the next 5 years, based in Houston, Texas again, he acted as the Chief of Robotics for NASA and went on to become Chief of Operations for the International Space Station.  All of this amazing experience laying the groundwork for Chris Hadfield to one day become the Commander he is today.

So when did Chris Hadfield start going into space?

He was actually thrilled to be the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in orbit, on his first duty in space in 1995, serving as "Mission Specialist 1 on STS-74, NASA's second space shuttle mission to rendezvous and dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. During the flight, the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis attached a five ton docking module to Mir and transferred over 1,000 kg. of food, water, and scientific supplies to the cosmonauts." Canadarm, also known as the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) is the mechanical arm used on Shuttles to move payload like that listed above to its deployment position and then release it.

In 2001, Hadfield again served as Mission Specialist 1, with the mission of installing Canadarm 2, the new Canadian built robotic arm and becoming the first Canadian to "leave a spacecraft and float freely in space. In total, Hadfield spent 14 hours, 54 minutes outside, travelling 10 times around the world."  From 2008- 2009 Chris trained to live and work on the ISS (International Space Station) for approximately 6 months, while serving as backup for Dr. Bob Thirsk of Expedition 20/21.

Then the underwater world called.  "In June 2010, Hadfield was part of the Pavilion Lake research team, located 420 km northeast of Vancouver, Canada. Pavilion Lake is one of the few places on Earth where microbialites are found." Why are microbiolites important?  Because if we can understand how they are formed, we can possibly find it easier to "identify potential forms of extraterrestrial life on future missions to Mars.

East Berlin sodium gas light bulbs West has Halide (CSA (Chris Hadfield))
NASA / Public Domain via Flickr


By September of 2010, a full two years before he would launch with Expedition 34/35 to the ISS, Chris Hadfield began his work and training and planning to eventually become the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station.

Launching into space aboard Russia's Soyuz in December of 2012, Chris Hadfield started his adventure of taking part in a long-duration spaceflight on the ISS.

In January 2013, Chris answered questions live from space with the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, and 250 grade 5 and 6 students who had gathered at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. These are just a few:

"Is your sense of taste weaker in space?"

Chris replied, "It's kind of like when you have a cold and are all plugged up. In space, there's no gravity to pull all the stuff out and so we get sort of a swollen head and it fills up our nose and makes our tongue kind of swollen and you can't taste your food. But after about a week, your body gets used to it, your nose opens up and you can taste your food ok."

"How do you wash your hands with soap and water?"

Chris demonstrated, by squirting some soapy water out of the No Rinse Body Bath rectangular package, rubbing his hands with a golf ball-sized floating glob, and drying them with a towel.


Chris answering questions from Students (CSA (
Hadfield after landing
NASA / Public Domain via Wikimedia


"How much space junk is there in the earth's atmosphere that you can see from the space station?"

Chris told them, "Space is full of junk or debris. The earth gets hit by 100 tons of debris a day. Every time you see a shooting star or a meteorite, that is space debris, only some of it is man made.  Because we are moving so fast, the only time I saw space debris was when a meteorite burned up beneath us. Kind of scary as it could have hit us but didn't."

"What inspired you to be an astronaut?"

Smiling, Chris replied, "You've probably heard of some people who have done some really interesting things in their lives. When I was your age, I watched some interesting people. I watched the very first two people walk on the moon when I was almost 10. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. And that's what inspired me. I thought I'm going to grow up to be something, why don't I grow up to be that!? That looks like an interesting thing to do and I knew it probably wasn't possible but if I don't try it's definitely going be impossible. And even if I don't get to fly in space, all those things of learning to fly and build spaceships and how to make machinery and how to test things and learn all about navigation, geography, and geology are all interesting. So I was inspired to become an astronaut by two of the very first explorers - the very first people to walk on the moon."

On March 13, 2013, Canada proudly watched as Chris became Commander Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to command a spaceship during the second portion of his five-month journey in space. The country holds its collective breath as he now prepares to come back to earth.

Colonel Hadfield’s many awards include the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Cross and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. He was named the Top Test Pilot in both the US Air Force and the US Navy and was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. He has flown three space missions, building two space stations, performing two spacewalks (EVAs), crewing the Shuttle and Soyuz and commanding the International Space Station.

He is the author of three international bestsellers: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, You Are Here, and The Darkest Dark, plus a new thriller novel, The Apollo Murders. He released a music album, Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can, and his version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity has been seen by 100s of millions. His TED talk on fear has been watched 11 million times.

Chris Hadfield is the co-creator/host of the internationally acclaimed BBC series 'Astronauts' and helped create/host, with actor Will Smith, the National Geographic series One Strange Rock. He is also the producer of the celebrated Rare Earth series on YouTube and the creator of the on-stage celebration Generator, which combines science, comedy, and music for sold-out audiences.Additionally, Chris Hadfield is an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, an advisor to SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, and Board Chair of the Open Lunar Foundation.




Page created on 1/12/2015 9:00:00 PM

Last edited 3/24/2023 3:47:56 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Canadian Space Agency - On December 19, 2012, Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) where he will live and work for five months as part of the crew of Expedition 34/35.
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) - NASA's Vision is to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.
International Space Station LIVE! - Welcome to the International Space Station... use the controls to orbit around the Space Station and see its position around the Earth. Very Cool!
Pictures from Space - - Commander Chris Hadfield explains how he takes all those amazing Pictures From Space.