Commander Chris Hadfield. Image courtesy: Canadian Space Agency
Todd Halvorson, Florida Today
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.-- The International Space Station's first Canadian commander will return to Earth late Monday in what will be an emotional end for more than 1 million followers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
During his five-month tour on the space station, Ontario native Chris Hadfield became a social media superstar, posting breathtaking images of Earth along with lyrical descriptions of his hand-selected locales. He also sent back videos detailing everyday life on the outpost.
Commander Hadfield records cover of David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'
"It will be a great day and a sad day when you touch down on earth! Thank you for your brilliance and for sharing your incredible journey with us!" Sara Knight-Rushton wrote this month on Hadfield's Facebook wall.
"What will we do without you to provide such a unique perspective on our planet, which is such a small part of our universe "unbelievable!" added Lori N'Scott Earle. "We will miss those amazing pictures along with their equally captivating quips."
An accomplished musician, Hadfield recorded and distributed the first original music produced on the station -- he converted the Cupola observatory deck into an orbital recording studio.
And, strumming an acoustic guitar, Hadfield joined Ed Robertson of the alternative rock band Barenaked Ladies in the space-to-ground, live Canadian national network television premiere of a song the two wrote together: "I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)."
LISTEN: Commander Hadfield covers "Danny Boy"
Hadfield, U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko are scheduled to depart the space station at 7:08 p.m. EDT, just two days after an emergency spacewalk to repair a coolant leak on the outpost. They will begin a fiery atmospheric re-entry at 9:37 p.m. Landing on the central steppes of Kazakhstan is scheduled at 10:31 p.m.
Three colleagues will remain on the outpost: Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin, and U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy. Another three will launch from Kazakhstan on May 28 and dock at the station that night. They are Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, U.S. astronaut Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.
Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko blasted off on a Russian Soyuz rocket on Dec. 19 and arrived at the outpost two days later, joining three others. Hadfield took command of the station when those three departed in mid-March.
During his 146 days in space, Hadfield became a space ambassador and arguably the world's most famous Canadian. He has more than 750,000 followers on Twitter and 236,000 likes on his Facebook page. Some 277,000 have Hadfield in Google-Plus Circles, and the astronaut-extraordinaire has tallied about 850,000 video views on his YouTube channel.
Hadfield's video repertoire includes digital demonstrations of "How To Barf, Puke And Vomit In Space;" "How To Wring Out A Washcloth In Space;" "How Astronauts Clip Their Nails In Space;" and "How To Make A Peanut Butter And Honey Sandwich In Space."
On SoundCloud, Hadfield posted audio files that include a variety of ambient sounds heard on the outpost: the station's toilet starting up and running steady; a caution-and-warning system alarm; the rickety-rackety operation of a resistive exercise machine; the "very grating" sound of a condensate pump.
But it's the stunningly beautiful Earth imagery and the eloquent captions that have captivated people around the world.
"You've gained a whole host of friends the world over through your wonderful, humane, poetic, scientific, musical, quirky posts that have let us share your very different perspective on Mother Earth for a few months," Helen Carter of Southampton, U.K, wrote on Hadfield's Facebook wall.
"It has truly been an eye-opening and amazing ride, with you onboard, Sir!" wrote Pedro Nortes. "It's going to be very, very hard to find anyone with your charisma, and people skills, who also can be a poet, photographer, a writer, director, actor, musician, teacher, magician... Need I say more?"
Many will miss the presence of a renaissance man on ISS.
"I truly hope you realize how much you've done for us Earthlings to be able to understand (an) astronaut's life up among the stars," Alexander de Quimper wrote on Hadfield's Facebook wall.
Sonja Garant dubbed him: "Officially the coolest Canadian in the solar system."