By Peter Rakobowchuk - The Canadian press
MONTREAL — After Monday night, astronaut Chris Hadfield might become a more typical social-media user and start posting pictures of mundane subjects — like food.
The Canadian space veteran is scheduled to return to Earth Monday evening after a five-month stay on the International Space Station. The astronaut best known for having shared stunning pictures from space says what he’s really looking forward to now is the aroma of a rich cup of coffee, and other such delights.
“One of the things I miss here is the smell of food,” Hadfield said during his final news conference from space, last month. “The rich aroma of a coffee or the smell of something that’s in the oven and the textures of food,” he said.
“Not a lot of our food is crunchy and has real delight in eating it.”
During his space-station visit, the 53-year-old astronaut has been consuming most of his nutrition, like chicken and soup, out of plastic pouches. “We hardly ever open a package here — there’s a lot of squeezing,” Hadfield added.
Something else the astronaut is looking forward to is being able to go out and shop for food: “Where, if you don’t like what’s in the fridge, then maybe you can go get something else or order something.”
In a few hours, he should be able to revel in a broader range of culinary choices. Hadfield is scheduled to land in Kazakhstan at 10:30 p.m. ET, aboard a Russian space capsule.
During his stay, Hadfield became a bit of an extraplanetary media star. He tweeted photos, talked to schoolchildren, strummed his guitar and provided videos about daily life on the space station. He bid a dramatic farewell on Sunday with his own, revised version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded at the space station and posted to YouTube.
His main task, however, was performing over 100 science experiments — such as examining changes to the spine, bone density, and nutrition in space. He became the first Canadian to ever take command of the giant orbiting laboratory.
In his two previous space missions in 1995 and 2001, Hadfield glided smoothly back to solid ground on the now-retired U.S. space shuttles. This will be Hadfield’s first return space flight inside the cramped Russian space capsule — and it’s going to be a hard landing.
“The (former U.S.) shuttle kind of flies its way into the atmosphere and then picks up on wings and lands,” he said. “The (Russian) Soyuz comes in a little more meteorite-like — and then a parachute opens and we come down and we let the Earth know that we’re back. The Soyuz hits with definite force when we land.”
The spacecraft Hadfield and his two returning colleagues will be using is a variation on the vehicle that has been in constant use by the Soviet, and then Russian, manned space programs since 1967. Hadfield is returning with Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn — the same pair he blasted off with on Dec. 19, 2012. It will take about three-and-half hours before the trio lands on Earth after leaving the space station.
“I’m sort of the pilot. Roman Romanenko is the commander of the Soyuz, but we fly it together back home,” he added.
This last visit to the space station was Hadfield’s third space journey. His first space trip was in November 1995 when he visited the old Russian Space Station Mir. His second voyage was to the International Space Station in April 2001, when he also performed two space walks.
This latest trip is, in a sense, the end of an era for the Canadian space program. Once Hadfield lands, it will be at least three years before the next Canadian astronaut visits the space station.
Gilles Leclerc, the interim head of the Canadian Space Agency, has said there probably won’t be another Canadian visit to the space station before 2016. That trip would go to one of Canada’s two new astronauts: David Saint-Jacques or Jeremy Hansen. The station will be kept in operation until at least 2020.