Chris Hadfield, a 52-year-old astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency and former air force colonel, will be the first Canadian to command the International Space Stations (ISS), BBC News reported.
Hadfield already has a number of firsts under his belt: he was also the first Canadian to take a space walk; the first and only Canadian to board the Russian Mir space station; and the first Canadian to operate Canada's major contribution to the space shuttle, its robotic arm, or "Canadarm."
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"It's very big for me personally. It's very big for me professionally," Hadfield said of his appointment as head of the ISS mission, the Huffington Post reported. "But it's also very big for Canada as a level of responsibility and respect and authority. It's unprecedented in space exploration for Canadians, and it's a big deal."
Hadfield will travel to the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in December 2012, CTV reported. It is a six-month mission, during which he will serve as commander for three months. In addition to overseeing operations, Hadfield will help conduct 100 experiments, operate Canadarm2, and perform various robotics tasks, the Ottawa Citizen reported.
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Hadfield told the Huffington Post that his work will include everything from blood-chemistry analysis to university research to studies about Earth's health. The mission's schedule is so full that personal projects can be only completed during sleeping time, which is allotted less than eight hours, Hadfield told the Post.
To date, there has only been one astronaut outside of the United States and Russia given the status of commander on the ISS: Belgian Frank De Winne of the European Space Agency, who lead the space station in 2009, according to the BBC.
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"For us, we're still the baby," said Hadfield of Canada's role in international space exploration, the Huffington Post reported. "We fall down a lot. We're going to bang our head a lot. But we have to take these steps on the way to being able to go farther."