Chris Hadfield Begins Mission of a Lifetime with Launch to the ISS

At 7:12 a.m. ET this morning the Soyuz TMA-07M rocket with the Expedition 34 crew of Chris Hadfield, Tom Marshburn (USA) and Roman Romanenko (Russia) launched to the International Space Station on Expedition 34 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a historic mission for Hadfield and Canada's space program.

As the sun set in the early evening in Baikonur it was a frigid -18c at launch time and the astronauts wore an extra thermal layer to keep them warm.

Only 9 minutes after launch and after years of training Hadfield and his crewmates were in space beginning their first orbit. It will take them about 2 days to align and rendezvous with the International Space Station with docking scheduled to occur at 9:12 a.m. ET (14:12 GMT) on Friday.

For Hadfield it begins a five month journey in which he will become the first Canadian to command the space station when the next crew arrives in March and Expedition 35 starts.

This is Hadfield's third mission in space. In 1995 he was a Mission Specialist on STS-74, NASA's second space shuttle mission to rendezvous and dock with the Russian Space Station, Mir. Hadfield became the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in orbit and the only Canadian to ever board Mir.

In April 2001, Hadfield served as Mission Specialist on STS-100 as a crew member on the space shuttle Endeavour as they delivered and installed Canadarm2, the new Canadian-built robotic arm, as well as the Italian-made resupply module, Raffaello. During the 11-day flight, Hadfield performed two spacewalks, making him the first Canadian to ever leave a spacecraft and float freely in space. In total, Hadfield spent 14 hours and 54 minutes outside, traveling 10 times around the world.

Hadfield is one of only a handful of astronauts to have visited the Mir Space Station and the International Space Station.

On hand in Baikonur was a large Canadian contingent including Hadfield's family.

Follow along as we cover Hadfield's mission on our special feature page.