MONTREAL — So what exactly does an astronaut bring with him on a visit to the International Space Station that could last up to six months?
If you’re Chris Hadfield, a newly minted wedding band is at the top of the list.
When he blasts off on Dec. 19, the Canadian astronaut will have the ring as a constant reminder of his wife Helene.
Hadfield already preparing for long space station stay.
The 53-year-old Hadfield said in an interview from Russia on Wednesday that he and Helene decided he should take something small and light given that space aboard the Soyuz capsule is limited.
“Something that can remind you on a daily basis, something that is both personal and also that is not just a collector’s item,” he told The Canadian Press.
“We thought about jewelry, earrings and a necklace, but it just seemed to make sense — so I’m flying a ring for my wife.”
The couple will celebrate its 31st wedding anniversary four days after Hadfield soars into space aboard a Russian spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The veteran astronaut is also taking up a watch belonging to his 26 year-old daughter Kristin.
“On my first flight I flew a watch from my first son, on my second flight I flew a watch from my other son and so on this one, I’m flying a watch for my daughter that she chose,” he said.
Hadfield’s first space trip was in November 1995 when he visited the Russian Space Station Mir. His second voyage was a visit to the International Space Station in April 2001, when he also performed two space walks.
During his upcoming visit, he will become the first Canadian to command the space station. That will happen during the second half of his mission.
No other Canadian astronauts are scheduled to fly after Hadfield, who will be accompanied by NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko.
In the past, the fleet of U.S. space shuttles bused Canadian astronauts up to the orbiting space lab. But the final space shuttle mission ended July 21, 2011, when the shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth.
As for the future, Hadfield says more opportunities may arise for Canadians to fly with astronauts from other countries.
“The Chinese have a very successful program,” he noted. “Who knows! We may co-operate with them.
“The European Space Agency has a co-operative effort between their astronaut corps and the Chinese astronaut corps and there are European astronauts studying Chinese.”
Hadfield also pointed out that India is working hard to have a manned space program over the next decade, with the Japanese doing the same thing.
He added that a number of private companies in the United States are also competing to provide the next manned American space vehicle.