March 14, 2013
Credit: Paolo Nespoli
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield took the helm of the International Space Station on Wednesday, only the second time in the outpost’s 12-year history that command has been turned over to someone who is not American or Russian.
“It’s a huge honor and a privilege for me, but also for all the people at the Canadian Space Agency and for my entire country,” Hadfield, 53, said during a change of command ceremony aboard the station broadcast on NASA Television.
“Thank you very much for giving me the keys to the family car,” Hadfield told outgoing station commander Kevin Ford, who is due to depart on Thursday along with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin.
“We’re going to put some miles on it, but we’ll bring it back in good shape,” Hadfield said.
Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin have been aboard the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles above Earth, since October.
Command of the station, a project of 15 nations that has been permanently staffed since November 2000, normally rotates between primary partners United States and Russia.
But in May 2009, Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne became the first station commander from the European Space Agency.
Hadfield, a veteran of two space shuttle missions, is the station’s first Canadian commander.
Hadfield will be part of a three-man skeleton crew until NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin arrive later this month.