Hadfield and crew land safely in Kazakhstan after space mission
Canadian astronaut lands in a Soyuz capsule under an orange parachute after five month mission
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gives a thumbs-up after a successful parachute landing in Kazakhstan. Photograph: Nasa handout/Reuters
The first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station landed safely in Kazakhstan with two crewmates today, wrapping up a five-month mission aboard the International Space Station.
A Soyuz capsule under an orange parachute raised clouds of dust as it ignited an engine to cushion its landing some 150km (90 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan at 8.31am (0231 GMT), Russian television showed in a live broadcast.
“The crew are feeling well,” Mission Control outside Moscow said in a radio transmission, as several search and rescue helicopters hovered around the capsule on a bright morning.
The three astronauts were shown smiling, seated in semi-reclined chairs and covered with blue thermal blankets, waiting for medical tests after their landing.
About three and a half hours earlier, space station commander Chris Hadfield, Nasa astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko departed the $100 billion outpost at it orbited over eastern Mongolia.
“It’s just been an extremely fulfilling and amazing experience,” Cmdr Hadfield radioed to flight controllers .
His Dublin-based daughter Kristin has said she slept through his return to Earth this morning.
Ms Hadfield acknowledged that she did have a “bit of a nervous sleep” thinking about the potentially dangerous re-entry and return to Earth, but she was reassured by her father’s preparation for it.
“My Dad always tells me that the more you prepare the better able you are to deal with any situation. They had prepared for everything,” she told RTÉ Radio this morning.
Cmdr Hadfield, who has become an internet sensation since joining the ISS in December, tweeted: “Safely home - back on Earth, happily readapting to the heavy pull of gravity. Wonderful to smell and feel Spring.”
Her father has captured the public imagination in a way that no individual astronaut has done since the moon landings.
Cmdr Hadfield signed off his duties with an out-of-this-world version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. The video has been in production since he joined the ISS five and a half months ago. In just 36 hours it has been viewed almost five million times on YouTube.
Ms Hadfield said it was her brothers’ recommendation that he create a Twitter account for himself to record his adventures on the ISS.
“Space is cool and they are doing so much interesting work up there. I think it is more surprising that all astronauts don’t have the level of exposure that my father has,” she said.
“It is easy to forget that it (the ISS) is there and that they are living and working 400 kilometres above us. For the past few decades there have been there. People did get a bit jaded so it is nice to see them getting excited about space again.”
She said being in space often has a profound effect on astronauts who see the world from a different perspective.
“We’re all in it together on the Earth. You hear that from every astronaut - how surprising it is their change in perspective once they go to space.”
Cmdr Hadfield first came to widespread attention in Ireland in February, when he tweeted: “Tá Éire fíorálainn! Land of green hills and dark beer. With Dublin glowing in the Irish night.” He envoked the help of his daughter and her Irish friends to get the sentence just right.
In February, Cmdr Hadfield, who has a keen interest in Irish music, duetted with The Chieftains on their version of Van Morrison’s Moondance.
Then on St Patrick’s Day he dressed up in a green dicky-bow and sweater and posted his version of Danny Boy, his all-time favourite song.
Though the family, who grew up in Canada, have no Irish roots, Cmdr Hadfield explained in an interview with The Irish Times that “Ireland has always interested me. It’s the source of so much distinct culture that is prevalent worldwide, and especially so in eastern Canada. I have loved and played and sung Irish music my whole life. Perhaps it started with my great-grandfather; he had a good voice, and in church when he didn’t like the hymn choice he would sing Danny Boy, much to the preacher’s dismay.”
Cmdr Hadfield’s mission included an impromptu spacewalk on Saturday to fix an ammonia coolant leak that had cropped up two days earlier. Without the repair, Nasa likely would have had to cut back the station’s science experiments to save power. The cooling system dissipates heat from electronics on the station’s solar-powered wing panels.
During a five and a half hour spacewalk, Marshburn and Chris Cassidy, who remains aboard the station, replaced a suspect ammonia coolant pump, apparently resolving the leak. Engineers will monitor the system for several weeks to make sure there are no additional problems.
The mission of Cmdr Hadfield and his colleagues, who blasted off 146 days ago, was the 35th expedition aboard the space station, a permanently staffed laboratory for biomedical, materials science, technology demonstrations and other research.
Their replacements are due to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 28th. Until then, a skeleton crew commanded by Pavel Vinogradov and including Nasa astronaut Cassidy and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will keep the station operating.
The crew’s return to Earth comes on the 40th anniversary of the launch of the first US space station, Skylab. Three crews lived and worked on the relatively short-lived Skylab between May 1973 and February 1974. The project helped Nasa prepare for in-flight research aboard the space shuttles and the International Space Station, which was constructed in orbit beginning in 1998.
The outpost, which is scheduled to remain in orbit until at least 2020, has been permanently staffed since November 2000.
Additional reporting: Reuters