Houston – Veteran space traveler Chris Hadfield is training to become the first Canadian Space Agency astronaut to assume command of the International Space Station. His two-month stint at the helm of the six-person orbiting science laboratory begins in March 2013 and may include the arrival of the first Orbital SciencesCorp. Cygnus commercial resupply craft.
Hadfield, 53, has trained for two years with cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, 41, andastronaut Tom Marshburn, 52, for a Dec. 5 liftoff aboard the 33 Soyuz mission to the station and a six-month tour of duty.
As commander of Expedition 35 from mid-March to mid-May, Hadfield would become only the second non-American, non-Russian to lead a station crew. European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne, of Belgium, became the first during October and November of 2009. The station has been continuously staffed since November 2000.
“It’s hugely exciting and a great honor to be asked to be the commander of the ISS. It’s just a dream come true at this stage of my life,” Hadfield, a Canadian air force test pilot and two-time space shuttle crew member, told a Sept. 13 news briefing at’s .
But for Canada, one of the station program’s five major global partners, the experience promises to be as galvanizing as the August landing of NASA ’s Curiosity mission on Mars has been in the U.S., Hadfield anticipates.
“It becomes disproportionately important for the Canadian space industry and Canadian space policy just because of the high level of public awareness that will come from my presence,” said Hadfield. “It’s a motivator for me to do my job right, do my homework and try to look at the whole thing globally.”
Current scheduling, said Hadfield, includes the possible arrival of the initial Cygnus cargo vessel during his command period.
The crew currently anticipates the arrival of aDragon supply craft in January followed by the inaugural Cygnus capsule in April, said Marshburn, who like Hadfield is trained for the Canadian arm track and capture duties .
SpaceX became the first of the two U.S. companies to deliver cargo with its Dragon spacecraft in May. SpaceX is preparing for a Dragon cargo delivery in October as well.
Hadfield will also serve as Romanenko’s flight engineer 1 – or co-pilot – aboard the Soyuz TMA-07M that launches the three fliers and returns them to Earth.
“He’s well organized, a highly disciplined person,” said Romanenko of his Canadian colleague through a translator. “He’s able to make decisions, which are the only correct ones in a given situation.”
If the scheduling holds, Hadfield, Romanenko and Marshburn will join ISS Expedition 34 commander Kevin Ford, of NASA , and cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Evgeny Tarelkin, as the 33 Soyuz spacecraft docks with the station two days after lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazkhstan.
Hadfield is scheduled to assume command in mid-March, as Expedition 35 begins with the departure of Ford, Novitsky and Tarelkin.