Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chris Hadfield Reflects on How Much ISS has Changed Since First Visit

Since returning to Earth only a few months ago on Tuesday May 14, International Space Station Expedition 35 commander and social media sensation Chris Hadfield, or @Cmdr_Hadfield as he is known to his Twitter followers, has been getting used to life back on Earth, after spending nearly 5 months in space. Just two days after returning to Earth, I got the opportunity to ask Commander Hadfield about how much he feels the ISS has changed since his first visit in 2001.

"The Station was very much a work in progress when I visited back in 2001. The purpose of that flight was a shuttle assembly flight, and that's where I first had the opportunity to do spacewalks and build Canadarm2". Hadfield told me.


Hadfield during an EVA during his first visit to the ISS during STS-100
Hadfield, and his fellow Expedition 34/35 crew members Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko returned to Earth after spending several months aboard the largest and most expensive spacecraft ever built- but it wasn't always like that, as Hadfield went on to say:

"Station was barely functional when the second expedition was on board. We were Expedition 34/35 and at that time it was Expedition 2 and there was only one laboratory on board".

Since then times have changed. Currently there are over 130 experiments that the crew conduct throughout their increment, constantly working with teams from all over the world on the research being done in the microgravity environment found aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The station commander took time to pay homage to the space station's robotic arm- Canadarm2, which was built in low-Earth orbit by Hadfield during his visit in 2001. It is still operating on the station's exterior today, and is now being used to capture and dock visiting vehicles, such as SpaceX's Dragon capsule, and Japan's HTV Transfer Vehicle.

The Canadarm2 in work
"All Canadians should recognise that Canada built Canadarm2, and Canadarm2 built the space station".

Hadfield continued to mention that during his first visit to station during STS-100, the ISS was just a construction site, with smaller amounts of science being conducted compared to what can be achieved today. However, nowadays, the station is the size of a football field, and has living space similar in size to a five-bedroom house. It is fair to say that the International Space Station has certainly changed since it first became habitable, a change which is clearly visible to a man who got to call this place his home.

"It's sort of as if I was there when it was a construction site a decade ago, and now I got to go back and see the finished product, and it's great to be in a position to have seen both".

Hadfield became the first Canadian to command the International Space Station earlier this year. He returned to Earth on Tuesday May 14 after landing in his Soyuz capsule at 3:31 a.m. GMT in the steppe of Kazakhstan. Hadfield is just after completing a worldwide tour promoting his new book "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth", which is available in all good book stores now.