MONTREAL -- The Queen and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have sent out congratulations to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is now commander of the International Space Station.
It's the first time in the history of the space station a Canadian has assumed control of the giant orbiting space laboratory.
A small change-of-command ceremony that included the playing of O Canada took place on Wednesday as the other five astronauts on board gathered around Hadfield.
NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, the outgoing commander, surprised Hadfield when he played the Canadian national anthem over a speaker.
Hadfield said Ford did a "tremendous honour for playing that song for me and my country."
The 53-year-old space veteran also thanked Ford for giving him "the keys to the family car."
"We're gonna put some miles on it, but we'll bring it back in good shape," Hadfield said.
The transfer of command to Hadfield is the start of what's officially designated "Expedition 35."
A member of the ground crew also relayed congratulations to Hadfield and passed along best wishes from the Queen.
Aside from Hadfield, the only other space station commander who wasn't either American or Russian was Frank De Winne of Belgium.
-- The Canadian Press