After nearly five months in space, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has passed on the torch of Station Commander in preparation for his return to Earth today.
Commander Hadfield arrived on the International Space Station on Dec. 21, along with American astronaut Tom Marshfield and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko. On March 13 he made history as he became the first Canadian to ever take command of the space station.
Since his arrival, he has delighted us here on Earth with pictures posted to his Twitter account and videos on YouTube with him not only speaking to school children and answering their questions, but also giving those of us that won't have a chance to experience being in low-Earth orbit a glimpse into the day-to-day life on the space station.
Although he has been having fun on his job, it hasn't all been playtime. The astronauts have been conducting numerous science experiments while at the same time keeping the station running smoothly. Also, just over the past few days, they even had an emergency situation that required an impromptu spacewalk by astronauts Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn to fix an ammonia leak in the station's cooling system. If this problem hadn't been fixed, it would have delayed Hadfield's, Marshburn's and Romanenko's departure from the station.
Yesterday, at 3:40 p.m. EDT, Hadfield's time as commander of the station came to an end, as he passed the torch to Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov. Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko are expected to board aSoyuz spacecraft at just after 7 p.m. EDT today, for the return to Earth, andafter a quick re-entry into the atmosphere, they should be on the ground inKazakhstan by around 10:30 p.m. EDT.
Almost time to leave Station. Hard to express all of my emotions, but mostly gratitude. I came here on behalf of so many people - thank you.
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) May 12, 2013
Before he goes, though, he has recorded at least one more video for us, reflecting on his time in space, and what he's looking forward to when he gets back home:
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"Gilles Leclerc, interim head of the Canadian Space Agency, says there probably won't be another Canadian travelling to the station for at least three more years," the Canadian Press reports.
Hadfield's been an endless source of entertainment and an incredible inspiration to us here on the ground, and although his daily photos and insights from space will be missed, his return home is most certainly a well-deserved one.
(Photo courtesy: NASA/CSA)
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