LONGUEUIL, Que. -- Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield headed for a rendezvous with the International Space Station on Wednesday after a chilly blast-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Russian space capsule carrying Hadfield, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn and cosmonaut Roman Romanenko is expected to arrive Friday.
During his five-month visit, Hadfield will become the first Canadian to command the giant orbiting space laboratory when he takes over in mid-March.
It's a task former Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk says will be challenging. Thirsk spent six months on the space station in 2009.
"Chris is the ultimate authority for any emergency situations that will occur on board," Thirsk said after watching the launch from the Montreal-area Canadian Space Agency.
But like all astronauts, Hadfield has been well-prepared.
"We train over and over for on-board fires, for cabin depressurizations, for toxic atmospheres," Thirsk said. "If these kinds of events should occur, you need to react quickly."
Thirsk noted he was getting mentally fatigued toward the end of his stint and Hadfield, as space station commander, will have to keep his crew motivated.
"Chris's job as commander will be to maintain crew morale and make sure the crew paces itself well," Thirsk said. "This is a marathon, not a sprint."
When Hadfield blasted off, his wife Helene, sons Kyle, 29, and Evan, 27, and 26-year-old daughter Kristin were there to watch and listen to the roar of the booster rockets.
"I'm feeling so happy," Kristin said. "I mean, my dad just went to space. It's amazing. I'm feeling amazing."
Gov. Gen. David Johnston described Hadfield's launch as "a great day for Canada, a great day for the world of discovery and innovation."
-- The Canadian Press