It’s official: Canada will soon have its first-ever commander of the International Space Station. On March 13, after spending decades preparing, astronaut Chris Hadfield takes control of the ISS.
You’ll be able to watch a livestream of handover of the ISS here around 5 p.m. ET.
Even for an astronaut, Hadfield’s career has been remarkable. On previous missions, he became first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in orbit; the first Canadian to float freely in space; the only Canadian ever to visit the Russian space station Mir. None of those milestones captured the public’s attention—and not just in Canada, but around the world—as much as his commandership of the ISS.
Hadfield, who arrived on the Space Station Dec. 21, has been using Twitter and other social media to share his experience with millions at home. And while other astronauts have used Twitter (the first live tweet from space was sent in 2010), none have been as prolific, or as enthusiastic, as Hadfield. “Chris is putting a lot of effort into this,” Jeremy Hansen, one of Canada’s newest astronaut recruits, recently told Maclean’s. “He’s a busy guy on orbit, and tweeting isn’t factored into the daily plan.” Marc Garneau, the first Canadian to fly in space, agrees that Twitter has made space more accessible than ever. “It’s incredible,” says Garneau, who was campaigning for Liberal leadership, and is a tweeter himself. “I wish it had existed on my last flight.”
Hadfield finds any spare moment (and there isn’t much free time for astronauts on the ISS) to share snippets of his life—an observation about what he had for breakfast, or a photo of Dublin from space, or Havana, or Vancouver. With the help of his son Evan, who’s become his unofficial PR person on the ground, Hadfield recently did an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. He’s released a song from low Earth orbit. He’s participated in countless interviews and chats with schoolkids and the press. Kathy Bolt of NASA’s Johnson Space Center was the Chief Training Officer on Hadfield’s mission, and has spent years working closely with him to help him prepare. “Chris has got a gift for public speaking,” she tells Maclean’s. “He’s been doing it for so many years in his role with the astronaut office here, representing Canada.” And he’s expected to keep it up at least until he returns to Earth, in mid-May.
Hadfield decided he wanted to be an astronaut at age 9, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Since then, he’s worked to be in a position to command what he calls “the world’s spaceship.” As he takes over the ISS, millions will be watching.