Who Was Chris Hadfield?
As a boy, Chris Hadfield dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and since 1992, he has been an integral part of both the Canadian and American space programs. In December 2012, he embarked on a five-month stay in space, where his Twitter posts about life aboard the International Space Station made him a celebrity.
Colonel Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian astronaut to live aboard the International Space Station, was born on August 29, 1959, in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Raised on a farm, Hadfield developed an early taste for adventure, and by his teens, he was already an accomplished skier.
But flying was Hadfield's true passion. At the age of 15, the young Air Cadet won a glider pilot scholarship. He dreamed even then of becoming an astronaut, but his native Canada offered no astronaut program to pursue.
Instead, Hadfield joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1978, spending two years at Royal Roads Military College in Victoria, British Columbia. He followed that up with two more years at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, where he earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1982.
Through it all, Hadfield's passion for flying never left him. Throughout much of the 1980s, he trained and worked as a fighter pilot for both Canadian and American forces. This period included training at the United States Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, as well as performing research work with NASA.
Pioneering Canadian Astronaut
By the early 1990s, Hadfield had flown more than 70 different kinds of aircraft andearned a name for himself — within military circles, at least — in both Canada and the United States.
With his home country eager to jump-start a new astronaut program, Hadfield was chosen from 5,330 applicants to become one of four new Canadian astronauts in June 1992. Stationed at NASA's Johnson Space Agency in Houston, Texas, by the Canadian Space Agency, Hadfield quickly became an integral member of both countries' space programs.
Over the next two decades, Hadfield donned a number of different hats, from serving as the voice of mission control to astronauts in space, to working support for shuttle launches at Florida's Kennedy Space Center and serving as director of operations for NASA at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia. Beginning in 2006, Hadfield served for two years as chief of International Space Station Operations at the Johnson Space Center.
In addition to his work on the ground, Hadfield was part of several space missions, including an 11-day assignment at the International Space Station in 2001—his first trip to the station, where he became the first Canadian to leave a spacecraft and freely float in space.
In December 2012, Hadfield embarked on the most challenging mission of his life: Along with two other astronauts, he departed on a Russian spacecraft for a five-month stay at the International Space Station. For Hadfield, the boyhood wonder he'd first experienced as a farm kid in Ontario had far from dissipated.
"To be able to command the space station, yes, it's professional, and yes, I'll take it seriously, and yes, it's important for Canada, but for me, as just a Canadian kid, it makes me want to shout and laugh and do cartwheels," he said shortly before departing.
Over the next several months, Hadfield enthralled novice space enthusiasts with his Twitter feed, offering insight into his life aboard the station while also taking and sharing stunning images of the universe around him.
His celebrity took another leap shortly before returning to Earth, when, with the help of his web-savvy son, Evan, Hadfield performed and produced a music-video tribute to David Bowie's "Space Oddity" aboard the Space Station. The video, which was posted on YouTube, garnered more than 7 million views within just a few days. It even caught the attention of Bowie, who stated, "It's possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created."
With fellow astronauts, American Tom Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko, Hadfield returned to Earth safely on May 13, 2013. He was relieved to be home. "It smelled of just wind in the grass," he said, recalling what it was like to first open the hatch of the spacecraft after landing. "The smell of spring."
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