Hadfield’s Return to Earth: ‘I’m Still Learning How To Walk Again’

Astronaut Chris Hadfield described himself as a man who never looks back. Still, he spoke fondly of his five months in space during the first press conference with media today (May 16) after his return to Earth earlier this week.

“I don’t spend my life going gosh, I went to [space station] Mir in 1995 and now everything else is boring. That’s not how I ever felt,” the Canadian said in a wide-ranging conversation that talked about everything from his future, to the science he performed, his favorite tweets while up in space.

First, let’s get a big question off the plate. Hadfield says himself he doesn’t know what he wants to do next. “I’m still learning how to walk again!” he exclaimed to one journalist who asked if he wanted to be Canadian Space Agency president.

Rehabilitation is occupying a lot of his time, he added: “I’m trying to stand up straight, and I have to sit down in the shower so I don’t faint and fall down. It’s like asking an infant if they’re ready for their Ph.D. yet. I’ll get there, but it’s too early to say.”

 Hadfield getting checked out by doctors after his return. 'Wired head, chest, arms and feet, learning how the body works when it has been weightless for half a year,' Tweeted Hadfield.
Hadfield getting checked out by doctors after his return. ‘Wired head, chest, arms and feet, learning how the body works when it has been weightless for half a year,’ Tweeted Hadfield.

Hadfield brushed aside notions that he is famous for himself, saying it is a reflection of the hard work his crew put in on the station orbiting Earth. Expedition 35 was the most productive in terms of the science-to-maintenance ratio aboard the station, despite an ammonia leak gumming up the schedule very late in the mission.

He spoke most warmly of the science performed while aboard station. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer found possible hints of dark matter during his stay, for example. Hadfield and colleague Tom Marshburn also did aging research in space on behalf of the University of Waterloo, specifically looking at how blood pressure and blood flow changes among astronauts in orbit.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gives a thumbs up after landing safely in Kazahkstan. Via NASA TV.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gives a thumbs up after landing safely in Kazahkstan. Via NASA TV.

Education and outreach were also something Hadfield was proud of. “The purpose is to help people to understand what is possible on the space station, and the things we are doing,” he said of his prolific tweeting and video creation.

The results, in many cases, were incredible. More than 7,000 Canadian students took part in experiments linked to the International Space Station, he said. Thousands more took part in a nation-wide singalong starring Hadfield. (Watch it below.)

Once Hadfield gets his feet underneath him and the mission fades into the past, he said he’s hoping to resume his life normally.

Astronauts of yesteryear, he said, often had big missions thrust upon them early in their lives. At age 53, for example, Hadfield is roughly 15 years older than Neil Armstrong was during the first moon landing in 1969.

For Hadfield, with two decades under his belt as an astronaut — three missions, several backup crew assignments, and some management positions to boot — he treats his everyday life with the same enthusiasm as his high-flying job.

“I take just as much pride in the big dock that my neighbor Bob and I built at the cottage as I do in building Canadarm2 on the space station. Those were both very complex projects that required a lot of physical effort, planning, decision making, and the product is out there for everybody to see. I feel really good about them both.”

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in the Cupola of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/CSA
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in the Cupola of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/CSA

He acknowledged that in a budget-conscious environment, the Canadian Space Agency is facing uncertainty, but he added that to treat today’s uncertainty as something unique is the wrong thing. Every mission carries a real risk of death. Every budget vote can kill or revive a space program — the station itself was only funded by a vote in one crucial Congress session in its history, he added.

“To say that things are uncertain is to talk about the space business. We are always hostage to our next launch. There has never been a period of certainty in the space business, ever,” he said.

His advice to those wanting to follow in his footsteps?

“The key thing is within yourself. If you want to become something, you have to start turning yourself into that thing, step by step, as a demonstration of personal will. That’s what I did when I was nine. I started turning myself into an astronaut.”

Watch the entire video of his press conference here.

Hadfield, Marshburn and Romenko Return Safely to Earth

Coming home to clear blue skies, green grass and warm weather, the Expedition 35 crew of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, NASA’s Tom Marshburn and Russia’s Roman Romanenko has returned after spending just over five months on the International Space Station. “It’s beautiful!” one of the crew radioed in Russian just before landing. “It’s morning here.”

The Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft landed right on target on the steppe of Kazakhstan, southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 10:31 pm EDT on May 13 (02:31 UTC and 8:31 am local time, May 14, 2013.) The crew undocked from the ISS on Monday.

Keeping with his Expedition-long constant updates via Twitter (updated by his son Evan during the return flight and landing) Hadfield’s location changed appropriately to “In a Soyuz” to “In a field in Kazahkstan.”

A few hours later, Hadfield tweeted, “Safely home – back on Earth, happily readapting to the heavy pull of gravity. Wonderful to smell and feel Spring.”

Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), left, Russian Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), center, and NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn sit in chairs outside the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after they landed in a remote area outside the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Hadfield, Romanenko and Marshburn are returning from five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 34 and 35 crews. Photo Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)
Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), left, Russian Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), center, and NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn sit in chairs outside the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after they landed in a remote area outside the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Hadfield, Romanenko and Marshburn are returning from five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 34 and 35 crews. Photo Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)

The crew smiled and gave thumbs up after being extracted from the Soyuz craft, which appeared to land upright and then tipped on its side. Hadfield and Marshburn will soon head back to Johnson Space Center in Houston, with Romanenko going to Star City, Russia.

The Expedition 35 crew has now wrapped up 146 days in space, 144 days on the ISS. While on board they completed 2,336 orbits around the planet and clocked almost 100 million kilometers (62 million miles) In total, Marshburn has spent 162 days in space, 166 days for Hadfield, and 334 days for Romanenko.

The Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft is seen as it lands with the Expedition 35 crew.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)
The Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft is seen as it lands with the Expedition 35 crew. Photo Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)
The Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft is seen as it lands. Photo Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)
The Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft is seen as it lands. Photo Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)

This video shows the crews saying goodbye; then later the undocking, followed by the landing and crew extraction:

Astronaut Hadfield’s Music Unites Schools in Song

OTTAWA, CANADA – Last time Chris Hadfield went up in space in 2001, most of them were infants. In 1995, during his first mission, none of them were even born. Hundreds of elementary school students at an Ottawa school, however, sang enthusiastically along with his music — and along with thousands of other students throughout Canada — during a nationwide performance May 6.

See the video of the event below:

The 860 children at St. Emily Catholic School added their voices to the throng as Hadfield led a rendition of “Is Somebody Singing” from the International Space Station.

Ranging in ages between 4 and 12, the students at this school spent six weeks practicing in their individual classrooms before performing together for the first time.

Music is a big part of the school’s life. There are regular masses and liturgies. Some of the older students have their own bands and do performances. Saint Emily also hosts local bands in Ottawa, including Junkyard Symphony.

But this performance was something different. Hadfield, Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson and others reprised the January premiere of the song and invited every school in Canada to take part. Some sang directly with the live broadcast. Others assembled on front lawns, or in gyms, to sing at their own pace.

“We all listened to [the song] and thought it as a great way for the school to come together as a community,” said Roisin Philippe, a kindergarten teacher at Saint Emily who co-organized the school’s performance. Several teachers brought their own instruments — guitars, harps, and the like — to the performance. Others handed out tambourines.

Teachers took the opportunity to integrate the performance into the school’s curriculum where possible. Jenny Ng, who teaches Grade 1, would show students some of Hadfield’s videos (such as how to brush one’s teeth in space.)  Others downloaded the sheet music to distribute to the class and teach them how to read music.

The performance is an initiative of the Canadian Broadcast Corp.’s Music Monday. It was the last live event with Hadfield, who currently commands Expedition 35, before he returns to Earth.

Hadfield and two of his crewmates — Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko — are scheduled to come back May 13.

Space Robotics Dominate New $5 Bill in Canada

In a world first, Canada’s Chris Hadfield unveiled a new money note — while in space.

Hadfield spun a fiver before the camera Tuesday as part of a ceremony to announce new $5 and $10 bills that will be distributed in Canada this year. The $5 bill will feature two pieces of Canadian technology that helped build the station: Canadarm2, which is a mobile robotic arm, and the hand-like Dextre.

The bill also shows an unidentified astronaut. That said, the choice to use Hadfield in the press conference was likely not a coincidence: Hadfield assisted with Canadarm2’s installation in 2001 when he became the first Canadian to walk in space.

“These bills will remind Canadians, every time they buy a sandwich and a coffee and a donut, what we are capable of achieving,” said Hadfield, who is in command of Expedition 35 on the International Space Station. His comments were carried on a webcast from the Bank of Canada.

The money note travelled with Hadfield in his Soyuz when he rocketed to the station in December, the Canadian Space Agency told Universe Today.

The polymer notes are intended to be more secure than the last generation of bills issued in Canada. Polymer $20, $50 and $100 bills are already available, but the smaller currencies won’t hit consumer pocketbooks until November.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield holds a version of the $5 bill on the International Space Station. Credit: Bank of Canada (webcast)
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield holds a version of the $5 bill on the International Space Station. Credit: Bank of Canada (webcast)

“Featuring a sophisticated combination of transparency and holography, this is the most secure bank note series ever issued by the Bank of Canada. The polymer series is more economical, lasting at least two and half times longer than cotton-based paper bank notes, and will be recycled in Canada,” the Bank of Canada stated in a press release.

As with the past $5 bill, the opposite face of the new bill shows a drawing of past prime minister Wilfrid Laurier. Also shown at the ceremony: the $10 bill, with a Via Canada train on one side and John A. Macdonald, the first Canadian prime minister, on the other.

Both Jim Flaherty, Canada’s minister of finance, and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney wore Expedition 35 pins at the press conference.

“I hope that’s not London calling,” Flaherty quipped to laughing reporters when NASA’s Mission Control phoned in with Hadfield on the line.

Hadfield is no stranger to space-themed currency. In 2006, the Royal Mint of Canada released two coins featuring him and Canadarm2. Hadfield and several other Canadian astronauts were also put on to Canadian stamps in 2003.

You can check out the full set of polymer bills on this Flickr series uploaded by the Bank of Canada.

Spacewalkers To Give Cargo Spacecraft A Helping Hand

Spacewalkers will replace a faulty navigational aid Friday to ensure that a cargo spacecraft in June docks safely with the  International Space Station.

Expedition 35 cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Roman Romanenko will venture into space to remove and replace a broken retroreflector on the Russian Zvezda station module.  The first spacecraft to use the new retroreflector will be the European Space Agency’s automated transfer vehicle (ATV) Albert Einstein, which is scheduled to dock with the station in June.

The ATV has a videometer on board that shoots laser beams at retroreflectors on the outside of the station. Then, the videometer analyzes the pattern of light that is returned. Based on this pattern, it navigates towards the station and in for a docking.

Albert Einstein will carry about two tons of cargo to the station, including water, oxygen, and extra fuel to boost the space station’s orbit. Tipping the scales at 44,611 pounds (20,235 kg), this ATV will be the heaviest ever lifted by an Ariane rocket.

Replacing the retroreflector won’t be the cosmonauts’ only task. They’ll retrieve an experiment, called Biorisk, that is supposed to evaluate how much microbes affect spacecraft structures. They may also take the Vinoslivost experiment (which looks at how exposed materials behave in space) back inside, depending on how much time they have.

Pavel Vinogradov during a 2006 spacewalk. Friday will mark the seventh spacewalk for the veteran Russian cosmonaut. Credit: NASA
Pavel Vinogradov during a 2006 spacewalk. Friday will mark the seventh spacewalk for the veteran Russian cosmonaut. Credit: NASA

These experiments are part of the long-term mandate of the station’s activities to study how well people and structures survive after years in space. Based on the results, engineers back on Earth can make adjustments for spacecraft under development, making them more robust for long-term missions.

Additionally, the cosmonauts plan to install the Obstanovka experiment, which will look at “space weather” in the Earth’s ionosphere. This region of the atmosphere is where auroras arise after the Sun’s particles strike the area.

Besides producing these pretty patterns, space weather has a darker side: it can cause communications shortouts or hurt satellites. That’s why NASA has the Solar Dynamics Observatory and other spacecraft keeping a close eye on the sun. The agency wants to improve space weather predictions to protect infrastructure on Earth.

You can watch Expedition 35’s first spacewalk on NASA Television at 9:30 a.m. EDT (1:30 p.m. UTC) on Friday. The cosmonauts should head outside around 10:06 a.m. EDT (2:06 p.m. UTC). This could change depending on how quickly the cosmonauts depressurize the Pirs airlock and complete their pre-spacewalk checklist.

This spacewalk will be the seventh for Vinogradov and the first for Romanenko. Including this upcoming spacewalk, there have been 167 spacewalks performed to construct the space station and do maintenance.

Chris Hadfield’s Top 5 Videos from Space

Chris Hadfield — the ever-tweeting, always charming Canadian running the space station these days — has had an eventful few months in space. If he’s not chatting with Captain Kirk, he’s playing guitar or, as it turns out, making very watchable videos.

Being on television requires a certain flair. You need to talk in sound bites, cultivate a charismatic presence, and keep the action moving enough so people don’t flip the channel. For an astronaut, who usually works methodically, carefully and slowly, working on television must be fully alien (pun intended) to how one does the technical parts of the job.

But Hadfield — who knows how to study a situation and make the most of it — has created videos with hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Whatever he’s doing is working.

Universe Today checked up on Hadfield’s secrets to success by watching the most popular videos in a playlist curated by the Canadian Space Agency. Here are the top five. Strangely, the last one doesn’t even include Hadfield’s face or voice.

5) Chris Hadfield Talks with the Queen’s Representative in Canada

If you’re all about cute questions from kids, or enjoy a brush with royalty, this lengthy press conference with Hadfield is very interesting. This is a bit of a marathon charm session on Hadfield’s part, but he pulls it off with his charismatic aplomb. One of the best answers demonstrates what he’s learned about weightless life: “I can fly. I can go in different directions,” Hadfield says enthusiastically, spinning before the camera.

4) Chris Hadfield Demonstrates How Astronauts Wash Their Hands in Zero G

For a question that came out of a routine Q&A with kids, Hadfield’s performance is pretty good. He demonstrates that soapy water looks like some sort of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-like ooze in space, and compares life on the space station to life on a sailboat, all while simply washing his hands. It’s almost existential.

3) Nail Clipping in Space

It turns out that Hadfield chooses to cut his nails because long ones interfere with his guitar playing. We wouldn’t want that to happen (and neither would the Barenaked Ladies), so fortunately Hadfield gets right on the problem, positions himself over an air vent and trims them with an ordinary nail clipper. Charmingly, this was not fully scripted, as he makes a mistake with the first clipping.

2) Chris Hadfield’s Space Kitchen (aka how to make a peanut butter sandwich in space)

With words you’d never hear on Martha Stewart — “We’ve got one tortilla. Oh, got away!” — Hadfield slathers condiments on to a tortilla and eats it. His sense of humor helps break up a very routine act; we’d be scared to be one of his kids after seeing the stern way in which he says, “Disinfectant wipe!”

1) Mixed Nuts in Space

This video is oddly mesmerizing, and that’s not just because of the UFO-type music near the beginning. It’s quite a simple setup: Hadfield shoots a bunch of nuts floating around inside of a can. But face it, it looks awfully weird for those of us used to grabbing similar packages off the kitchen shelf. Maybe that’s why this video has more than 4 million views.

Former Navy SEAL Survived ‘Hell Week’ En Route to Space

If a meteor hit the station, or a fire suddenly broke out, you’d want some pretty quick-thinking people on board to solve the problem. Thankfully, Chris Cassidy — a former Navy SEAL — is on his way to station in just a couple of weeks as a part of Expedition 35/36.

SEAL training is perhaps the most vigorous military program in the world. Even a quick look at the tests candidates must pass makes us feel exhausted. You need to master a suite of skills that range from demolition to navigation to, of course, fast swimming. There’s something called “combat diving”, which is supposed to test how well these Navy people “perform in stressful and often uncomfortable environments.”

And don’t forget “hell week.” Candidates only get to sleep four hours in 5.5 days. They rack up 200 miles of running through physically training for 20 hours a day. (No, those numbers are not typos. It’s real.)

Cassidy — who by the way, passed that gruelling SEAL training on the first try without getting hurt or going crazy — told Universe Today last week about what he would do should he be faced with an emergency in space.

I think just the training that I got in the field, training in the early part of my Navy career, and during my time being an astronaut will all combine together. What I know from combat in the Navy, there’s a sort of calmness that comes over people who are well-trained and know what to do. Muscle memory kicks in, and it’s not until after the thing is over that you realize what you went through.

I kind of think that’s how me as an individual, and we as a crew, will respond to any dicey dynamic event like that. Just work through the procedures that we’ve been trained, make the place safe if we can, and if we can’t, we are trained to evacuate. And the procedures all get us to that point.

Cassidy further joked that some of the humor SEALs use might not be appropriate in his most recent job title; former SEAL and International Space Station Expedition 1 commander William Shepherd once told Cassidy he might be “kicked out of a NASA meeting” if he used some of the language.

More seriously, though, Cassidy said he is particularly looking forward to doing experiments measuring bone mass on the International Space Station. Since that research has applications for people on Earth (particularly those facing osteoporosis  he said it’s a demonstration of how spaceflight can help further health work on the ground.

His ultimate goal? “To be called back [to station] a second time.” Let’s hope he makes it.

Cassidy and his crewmates Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 29. Here a look at some of the final training the crew received at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia:

Next Soyuz Crew Will Take 6-Hour Fast-Track to Space Station

The next Soyuz crew will be the first to try out the new abbreviated four-orbit rendezvous with the International Space Station. This relatively new, modified launch and docking profile for the Russian ships has been tried successfully with three Progress resupply vehicles, and now Roscosmos and NASA have agreed to try it on a human flight.

“We tried this approach on the cargo vehicles, and now we will try to do it on the manned vehicles,” said Sergei Krikalev, former cosmonaut, who now leads the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow, speaking through an interpreter on NASA TV. “Now we have onboard new machinery and new software, so the vehicle is more autonomous, so it’s possible to do a lot onboard the vehicle and to calculate the burns so they don’t consume a lot of fuel.”

In the past, Soyuz manned capsules and Progress supply ships were launched on trajectories that required about two days, or 34 orbits, to reach the ISS. The new fast-track trajectory has the rocket launching shortly after the ISS passes overhead. Then, additional firings of the vehicle’s thrusters early in its mission expedites the time required for a Russian vehicle to reach the Station.

Liftoff of the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft is scheduled for 4:43 p.m. EDT (20:43 UTC) on March 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Docking is set for 10:31 p.m. EDT (02:31 UTC).

“The Soyuz is not the most comfortable vehicle to be in for an extended period of time,” said NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy who is part of the Expedition 35/36 crew who will make the first fast-track flight. “The toilet is right next to where you sleep which are right next to your buddy and eating and all; it’s like living for a day in a smart car or a Volkswagen Beetle….So the benefit to us is we get to the space station faster with the facilities that it offers, much more comfortable type of environment to be in and it also demonstrates some technology that’s useful in getting to the space station on that same day.”

One of the reasons given in the past for having the two-day or even three-day flight in the Soyuz was to allow the crew members time to get acclimated to being in a weightless environment. This new fast approach doesn’t allow for that, but Cassidy said he doesn’t think that thinking is really applicable, since the cramped Soyuz is so different from the voluminous space station.

“The adaptation of that I think is a little bit different,” he said. “You’re really not truly adapting in that day and a half. Two days on the Soyuz, that same adaptation that you’ll have once you get to the space station just because it’s a different perspective for your brain to get its arms around.”

The Soyuz took the first crew to the International Space Station in November 2000, and since that time, at least one Soyuz has always been at the Station, generally to bring the crews back and forth, but also to serve as a lifeboat should the crew have to return to Earth unexpectedly. Now that the space shuttles have been retired, the Soyuz is currently the only way for ISS crews to go to and from the Station. When there is a full crew of six on board, that means two Soyuz are docked at the ISS.

SpaceX is shooting for sometime in 2015 for the first crew flights of the Dragon to the ISS.