UPDATED: Hadfield gets “the spaceship’s keys”

Hadfield Twitter imageSarnia-born astronaut Chris Hadfield is taking charge.

After spending the last three months working in the International Space Station flying high above the earth, Col. Hadfield becomes Commander of the ISS or as he put it on Twitter this morning “tonight Kevin hands me the spaceship’s keys.”

NASA Commander Kevin Ford played the Canadian national anthem at 5:10 pm as part of the ceremony to give Hadfield control of the ISS.

“Thank you very much for giving me the keys to the family car,” Hadfield told Ford. “We’re going to put some miles on it but we’ll bring it back in good shape.

“It is with great humility and pleasure I accept the command of the International Space Station,” he added.

Hadfield becomes the first Canadian to lead the crew at the ISS – a noteworthy occasion even for Queen Elizabeth II who sent her best wishes to Hadfield on her website http://www.royal.gov.uk/LatestNewsandDiary/Pressreleases/2013/MessagetoCommanderHadfieldandtheInternationalSpace.aspx.

Before he left earth in December, Hadfield talked about the biggest challenge he faced as commander – not the technical side of the job, but the human relations side – the random events which he can’t control. “if we’re up there in space and someone has family that gets hurt on earth or sick or killed, that I really consider, as the commander, how are we going to handle that? How are we going to stay supportive and functional and productive if my little group of people, isolated from the rest of humanity, if someone has a problem like that to face,” he said in October.

“The space station is a big capable machine…and we have some pretty serious things right now that are broken down and we have to go and fix them,” he says speaking about the physical work of the mission.

“But it’s the psychological things that can be pretty tough… We have had people who had family members die while they were on space station and it’s pretty tough to not be able to come home.”

Hadfield says he’s done his best to be well equipped to deal with any of those unexpected events by getting to know his crew in a deep and meaningful way.

“I’ve worked with the crew for the past several years to work on the depth of comradeship and a depth of shared experience that we can recognize how everybody is doing and also support each other if someone is not doing well.”

Hadfield commands the ISS until he returns home in July.

– Heather Wright