Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NASA JSC - The Commander and I

JSC is home to the NASA astronaut corps and is responsible for training space explorers from the United States and our space station partner nations. So It's no wonder that around a corner you could bump into an astronaut. NASA astronauts do more than travel to space. While not in space or training for an upcoming mission, they partake in other activities within JSC and sometimes other NASA centers. Then let's not forget all the Educational and Public Appearances. 
Astronaut Chris Hadfield and I. My first Canadian Space
Agency Astronaut and future Commander experience! 
Last Friday evening I went to see the a fun musical event. Astronaut Chris Hadfield and Astronaut Cady Coleman performed with their fold band Bandella. Also in the band was Dan Burbank, another future ISS Commander. It was Cady's last gig before she departs for her time aboard the International Space Station. While I had previously met Cady (her and I were practicing our High C's together), I was too chicken to go and introduce myself to the future Commander of the ISS. 

So on Monday my dear friend Liz (remember Liz and her experiments investigating the effects of spaceflight on human behavior?) contacted Chris Hadfield and the wonderful person he is, immediately scheduled an appointment to "see me". He is one busy Astronaut these days, training for his time onboard the ISS in 2012 and then taking over the Command of the Space Station in March of 2013. This will mark a special day for the Canadian Space Agency! He was just about to fly to Kennedy Space Center and be there for the arrival of the very last SRB (Solid Rocket Boosters). 

So we sat down and he showed me some amazing pictures on the wall. I learned a lot about him and the more he told me, the more I realized what an accomplished person he is. 

He was born in Canada, got a BA in Mechanical Engineering (with honors!) from the Royal Military College. Then he conducted post-graduate research at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and got his Master of Science in Aviation Systems at the University of Tennessee. 

I discovered that Chris became interested in flying at a very young age and so I was not surprised to learn that he won a glider pilot scholarschip at age 15 as an Air Cadet and a year later a powered pilot scholarship. Chris decided to join the Canadian Armed forces (that's where he got his BA in Mechanical Engineering) and soon was named Top Pilot, later took honors as the overall top graduate from Basic Jet Training in Saskatchewan and then he trained as a fighter pilot in Albert on CF-5s and CF-18s. 
Canada's CF-18
Over the next three years Chris flew the CF-18 for the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and he flew the first CF-18 interception of a Soviet "Bear" aircraft. From there Chris went on to attend the United States Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. in the late 80s and early 90s he test flew the F/A-18 and A-7 aircraft. And he also started to do research work with NASA on pitch control margin simulation and flight and completing the first military flight of F/A-18 enhanced performance engines and lead some other really amazing tests. He has flown over 90 different types of aircrafts and I would fly with Chris anytime of the day and night! 

This career as NASA is as impressive, if not more! In 1992 Chris was selected to become one of four Canadian astronauts from a field of over 5,300 applicants and later that year the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) assigned him to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He quickly got involved in technical and safety issues for the Shuttle Operations Development and contributed to the development of the glass shuttle cockpit.
The space shuttle orbiter's glass cockpit fitted with
an eleven panel full color display Multifunction
Electronic Display Systems (MEDS)
STS-74 (Atlantis) was Chris' first spaceflight and as a Mission Specialist he witnessed the 2nd space shuttle mission to rendezvous and dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. He became the only Canadian to have boarded Mir. 

Mid 90s to early 2000s he NASA's Chief CAPCOM (which by now you know what it means - go back to my day with Holly inside MCC). He hold that position for 25 consecutive space shuttle missions. 

STS-100 (Endeavour) was his 2nd mission to Space. This time he visited the International Space Station and delivered and installed the Canadarm2, the new Canadian-built robotic arm. He performed two spacewalks and became also the first Canadian to freely float in space outside a spacecraft.  One of Chris' crew mate was another friend of mine; Scott Parazynski. Two together deployed the UHF antenna on the Destiny lab and then installed Candaarm2. Two days later they went into the darkness of space together again to connect power and data grapple fixture circuits for the new arm on Destiny. They also moved a spare Direct Current Switching Unit (DCSU) from the shuttle's payload bay to the storage rack outside Destiny. 
Astronaut Scott Parazynski and I having
fun. He performed two spacewalks with
Chris on STS-100.
The next 2 years, through 2003, he was the Director of Operations for NASA at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. There he also trained to become fully qualified to be a flight engineer cosmonaut in the Soyuz TMA spacecraft, and to perform spacewalks in the Russian Orlan Spacesuit. 
Chris in the Russian Orlan Spacesuit
From 2003 to 2006 Chris served as the Chief of Robotics and from 2006 to 2008 he was the Chief of International Space Station Operations. 

During 2008 and 2009 Chris was the backup for Dr. Bob Thirsk for Expedition 20/21, a long-duriation spaceflight, training to live and work onboard the ISS. 

Earlier this year Mr. Hadfield was the Commander of NEEMO 14, the NASA undersea mission to test exploration concepts living in an underwater facility off the Florida coast. NEEMO 14 used the ocean floor to simulate exploration missions to the surface of astroids, moons and Mars in order to gain a better understanding of how astronaut crews interact with equipment including advanced spacesuits, a lander, a rover and robotic arms. 
Part of the NEEMO 14 crew
And this summer he was part of the Pavilion Lake research team off of Vancouver. Pavilion Lake is one of the few places on Earth where microbialites are founds. The team used a combination of remotely operated vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles, SCUBA divers and DeepWorker submersibles to help understand how the microbialites formed and possible make it easier to identify potential of extraterrestrial life on future missions to Mars. 
Pavillion Lake with one of the DeepWorker chase boats, looking south
And just this month, Chris Hadfield was assigned to Expedition 34/35. In 2012 he will make this third trip to space, this time on the Russian Soyuz and will partake in a long-duration spaceflight aboard the ISS. Then during this second portion of this stay, he will take over Command of the ISS and also be the first Canadian to command a Spaceship. 

Follow Astronaut Chris Hadfield on Twitter! @cmdr_Hadfield

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