12 Highlights of Chris Hadfield's High-Flying Career



When Chris Hadfield decided to become an astronaut in the late 1960s, he had two main obstacles facing him. First, he was only nine years old. Second, Canada didn't even have an astronaut program.

Undeterred, Hadfield spent a lifetime taking steps to position himself for spaceflight, and eventually made it into orbit three times. He became the only Canadian to visit the space station Mir, made the first Canadian spacewalk, then capped his career as commander of Expedition 35 on the International Space Station, another Canadian first.

On June 10, 2013, Hadfield announced he would retire from government service and the Canadian Space Agency starting July 3. Here are some highlights from Hadfield's space career.

Joining The Astronaut Corps

Canadian Space Agency

Shortly after Hadfield (second from left, back row) was selected as an astronaut in 1992, he was invited to take mission specialist training at the NASA Johnson Space Center — a rare privilege for Canadians at the time. Also pictured: Back row, from left to right: Marc Garneau, Hadfield, Bjarni Tryggvason, Steve MacLean. First row, left to right: Mike McKay, Dave Williams, Julie Payette, Robert Thirsk.

Learning The Skies


Hadfield was an accomplished pilot long before becoming an astronaut. He began his career as a Canadian air cadet, progressing to flying NORAD missions and attending the prestigious United States Air Force test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Here, Hadfield is pictured just prior to shuttle mission STS-100 in 2001.

Visiting Space Station Mir

Hadfield Aboard Mir

Hadfield began Russian language training early in his astronaut career and made his first spaceflight (STS-74) in November 1995, just three years after joining the astronaut corps. He became the only Canadian to visit the Russian space station Mir. During his brief mission, Hadfield found time to play this collapsible guitar in orbit.

Operating Canadarm


Besides visiting space station Mir on his first flight in space in November 1995, Hadfield used his agility skills to pilot the Canadarm — a first for a Canadian. The robotic arm was used on STS-74 to install a Russian docking module on Atlantis' orbiter docking system so the shuttle could meet with Mir.

Space Communicating


Early on, Hadfield also began working in Mission Control as a capcom or "capsule communicator" — an astronaut who relays instructions to the spacecraft. Here he is pictured in 1996 supporting STS-77, a mission that included Canadian Marc Garneau.

Taking A Walk On The Space Side


In 2001, Hadfield became the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk on shuttle mission STS-100. In the years since, he has called it one of the most meaningful experiences he ever had as an astronaut.

Human and Robot Arms


The main goal of Hadfield's two spacewalks in April 2001 was to install Canadarm2, a more advanced robotic arm to build on the famed original Canadarm. Canadarm2 was used heavily during construction of the International Space Station, and is still in use today.

A Robotic Handshake


On the STS-100 shuttle mission in April 2001, Hadfield also performed the first robotic transfer in space, handing off the Canadarm2's launch cradle to Canadarm.

A Russian Ride To Orbit

NASA/Carla Cioffi

Hadfield (top) prepares to head to a Soyuz spacecraft Dec. 19, 2012 to visit the International Space Station. His mission, which included the command of Expedition 35, was the culmination of a lifetime of training, he said at the time. Also pictured: NASA flight engineer Tom Marshburn, and Soyuz commander Roman Romanenko.

Picturing Radiation


Hadfield poses with radiation detectors used on the International Space Station during his Expedition 34/35 mission in 2013. Similar Radi-N2 neutron bubble detectors were used by dozens of Canadian classrooms to compare radiation exposure between Earth and space. Hadfield also did more than 140 videos (mainly educational ones) in orbit. As of mid-June 2013, those videos collectively received 30 million views.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace