On April 19, Chris Hadfield will be back where he loves to be in space. The 41-year-old astronaut will become the first Canadian to walk in space as part of the next mission to the International Space Station.
In an interview from Houston,Texas with CBC News Online's Bob Sudeyko, Col. Hadfield said there are times when he still can't believe how lucky he is to do what he does for a living.
"I can't believe that the launch date is coming up so soon because we have been preparing for this mission for so long," he said.
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Hadfield started his official astronaut career in 1992, but has carried the dream of going into orbit since he was 15 years old. At the time, he had watched NASA spaceships on their initial flights outside the Earth's atmosphere, and promised himself one day he'd reach the stars.
As an astronaut, he has travelled to Mir, Russia's now-defunct space station. Hadfield flew as the first Canadian mission specialist, the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in orbit, and the only Canadian to ever visit Mir.
And now he'll add another first to his credit the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk.
"To see the whole world rolling by at eight kilometres a second through my visor, and at the same time to be building the main Canadian component onto the International Space Station it's just an amazing thing to be participating in."
- BACKGROUNDER: The International Space Station
The primary purpose of the shuttle Endeavour's flight is to deliver and install the new Canadian Robot Arm (Space Station Remote Manipulator System).
The arm will work like a construction crane to build and maintain the ISS. All missions in the ISS construction schedule, which runs through 2006, will need to use the Canadarm.
Hadfield is the third Canadian to visit the ISS. Julie Payette was there in 1999, when the station was still uninhabited. Marc Garneau went aboard in late 2000 on a mission to install the station's solar panels.
Hadfield says Canada's hardware and its astronauts have evolved over the years to the point where they now hold pivotal positions on the shuttle crew and in building the space station.