Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, former commander of the International Space Station and occasional orbital troubadour, has resigned from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), officially ending his 21-year career as an astronaut.
"Chris Hadfield has inspired all Canadians, especially our next-generation of scientists and engineers," Parliamentary Secretary Chris Alexander said at an event in Longueuil, Quebec on Monday. "His exceptional career achievements make him a true Canadian hero and icon."
According to a statement released through the CSA, Hadfield's official reason for leaving the agency was to "pursue new professional challenges." But in an interview with the CBC, he indicated he had personal reasons, as well.
"[I'll be] making good on a promise I made my wife nearly 30 years ago – that yes, eventually, we would be moving back to Canada," Hadfield said.
Hadfield has spent most of his career in the US, dating back to his time as a fighter pilot in the 1980s. As an astronaut, he made his home in Houston, Texas.
But surely his most interesting address was aboard the International Space Station, where he spent 144 days performing experiments, taking photos, and overseeing repairs to the station; he even took time out to sing songs and chat with William Shatner, Star Trek's Captain Kirk.
During his tenure on the station, Hadfield's Twitter feed garnered more than one million followers, which he informed and amused with a constant stream of fascinating observations and breathtaking orbital snapshots.
Hadfield's mission officially ended with a touchdown in Kazakhstan on May 14, 2013, and the 53-year-old says that this spaceflight – his third – will be his last.
"I've had such an interesting career and after 35 years it's time to step down," Hadfield told the CBC. "I'm the last astronaut of my class that's still around."
Hadfield said he hasn't decided exactly what "professional challenges" he will pursue, but added that they would involve private interests, outside the government – though that's unlikely to completely dispel the frequent rumor that he plans to seek elected office in his native Canada. He added that he's likely to give presentations on space while he takes the next year to weigh his options.
For now, he still needs to rehabilitate. Hadfield said his extended time in zero gravity has cost him as much as 5 per cent of his bone density in some areas, and he still needs to regain some of his muscle strength. He said he expects to be "back to normal" by September 2, Canada's Labour Day.
By then – ironically – he will be unemployed, and a civilian. His resignation from the CSA is effective July 3. ®