Astronaut Chris Hadfield greeted the day with a chipper tweet this morning, downplaying the historic significance of the day, as he becomes the first Canadian to take command of the International Space Station.
Cmdr Hadfield arrived on the station back in December, as part of Expedition 34, and soon became an internet celebrity by sharing with the world the daily spectacle of sights he sees as he zips around the planet every 90 minutes or so. Hadfield's wit and charm have also made him a star, in both filmed moments of daily life on the station (such as how to clip your fingernails, and how to make a peanut butter sandwich, both without causing undue harm to the station or its inhabitants) and while answering the questions of numerous school children from orbit.
Hadfield has certainly been enjoying his time on the station, and with good reason. The chance to escape from the bounds of our planet is an exhilarating adventure. However, he hasn't just been goofing off up there. He, along with the rest of Expedition 34, have been hard at work keeping the station operational and conducting science experiments. It's only been in his spare time that he has been able to share as much about the experience with us as he has.
Now that he's taking over the top-job, though, he may actually have less time to devote to wowing us, as he spends more of his time wowing the ground crew and his fellow astronauts.
Retired NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox has worked with Hadfield, and can personally attest to his capabilities.
"He's really good," Bowersox said in an interview from Houston, TX, according to CBC News, where he also noted that Hadfield has both the technical and leadership skills necessary to be commander of the station, and gave some advice as well.
"Enjoy every minute of it because as long as it may seem, the mission is going to come to an end and you're going to be back on the ground and you'll have those memories," said Bowersox.
"It's fun and ... when you think about it, it is really a pretty rare opportunity. There aren't that many people who have had the privilege of doing that job and I think Canada should be really proud of Chris."
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The changeover from Expedition 34 to Expedition 35 takes place tonight, with the simple ringing of a ceremonial bell. Current station commander Kevin Ford, along with cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, are scheduled to depart for Earth tomorrow night, wrapping up their 143 day mission in space. Hadfield, along with American astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko remain on board and will be joined by the Expedition 36 crew later this month.
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