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The first Canadian astronaut to walk in space will also become the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.
Chris Hadfield takes off Dec. 5 for the ISS, where he will spend nearly six months carrying out scientific experiments and putting the Canadarm2 through a series of tasks. He will assume control of the station's operations as of March 2013.
Hadfield, 52, along with NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, will lift off "above the barren plains of Kazakhstan," en route to join six other colleagues from Russia and the U.S. at the massive orbiting laboratory, the Canadian Space Agency said.
His skills and training could be tested before he even gets there.
As the "left seater," Hadfield is the backup for pilot Romanenko, something he began to train for a decade ago.
"If the commander gets appendicitis, I must fly the vehicle by myself," Hadfield said.
The former RCAF fighter pilot will serve as a flight engineer on the station until the six-person crew of Expedition 34 leaves in March 2013, when Expedition 35, with Hadfield in charge, will officially begin. His duties will include heading up at least one spacewalk and possibly producing the first ever album recorded in space — his guitar and production gear will be on board.
This will be Hadfield's third shuttle flight in his distinguished 20-year career as an astronaut. He flew to Russia's Mir Space Station in November 1995, and in April 2001 he became the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk when he attached the Canadarm2 to the ISS.