Astronaut Chris Hadfield on why Spaceflight can be a lot Like Construction
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s crowning achievement to date has been his tour as commander of the International Space Station (ISS).
“It’s the biggest construction project ever built in space, using a team of 15 different countries,” he says. “It was a technical task so enormous that it’s difficult to conceive just how improbable and complex it is.”
Hadfield says he knew the assignment was also an ongoing construction project, involving repairs and maintenance.
“When I was asked to be a commander of this ship, I asked myself what I needed to do to get ready for it,” he says. “My approach was to start working on my own personal competence. However, the trouble with competence is that it’s always out of date and always stale. If you’re not always studying, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.”
Hadfield’s team of six worked together for almost five years before reaching the ISS. Prior to that, they defined four parameters of mission success:
- We are going to live. We are going to survive the project.
- Keep the vehicle healthy — keep the ISS alive.
- When we finish the process and our time is up and we thump back to Earth, we will have loved this so much, we will start the process of getting back again.
- Conduct some science for NASA.
Hadfield recalls a crew member reporting shiny “white stuff” trailing the ISS. The problem turned out to be leaking ammonia from the station’s critical cooling system.
“NASA told us that if we could not solve the problem…the ISS would have to be abandoned,” he says.
During a gruelling six-hour spacewalk, a crew member replaced the faulty parts with spare components.
“We fixed the leak and saved the station,” he says. “Not by chance, or by luck, but by visualization of potential problems, preparation, working together and execution.”
The article was written by Peter Kenter and published on Daily Commercial News. Republished with permission.