MONTREAL - For the first time in the history of the International Space Station, a Canadian will take charge of the giant orbiting space lab.
The transfer of command to space veteran Chris Hadfield will be marked Wednesday by the simple ringing of a ceremonial bell.
He is almost three months into his five-month space visit.
Since his arrival on Dec. 21, 2012, the Canadian space veteran has been taking spectacular photos of the world beneath him and posting them on Twitter. Hadfield's colourful, detailed images have received international attention and helped him gain over 500,000 Twitter followers.
Another recent photo showed an apple with Velcro on the bottom which, Hadfield explained, allowed him to set it down between bites.
But the 53-year-old spaceman may have to cut down on the amount of time he has devoted to his nascent photography career.
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"All the grains of sand in all the deserts can't compare to the number of ways I love you. #ValentineFromSpace"
"If you give wind and sand enough time together, they create art."
'The incredibly green lush wetness of the Amazon basin."
Someone Misses Starbucks
"These delicate cappuccino frosting decorations are, in fact, endless hummocks of Saharan sand."
'The Earth has problem skin; one popped, the other didn't."
It Totally Does
"Even as I took this picture I was thinking it will make a nice desktop background. And it does."
"Some fault lines are visible from space. Tectonic plates make a rift in the Andes."
"Tonight's Finale: Nature inspires awe - cloud, ice and rock in southern South America."
"Happy Alligator Lake, Mexico. I'm certain it has an official name, but that's what it looks like to me."
'Tonight's Finale: Haruna, a large and powerful tropical cyclone, wreaks clockwise destruction across Madagascar."
"This taffy-twisted African rock reminds me of a dolphin, and Alfred Hitchcock."
Freetown, Sierra Leone
"Freetown. A major west African port city, capital of Sierra Leone."
"I don't think that sand came from those rocks."
Haggis (Well, Not Really)
"This green Aussie lake somehow reminds me of a haggis."
"Glacial water burping into the Atlantic in deep Southern Argentina."
"Arid fingers of sand-blasted rock look like they're barely holding on against the hot Saharan wind."
"Mars is a very interesting planet, with its rugged, ancient surface. But this is Earth."
"Tonight's Finale: There is an undeniable beauty in human imagination. What do you see in this Saharan cloud?"
"Your perspective often dictates what you see. From here I see a puffball on an oyster half-shell. How about you?"
"Dragon skin. A bad place to take a walk, near the Horn of Africa."
"Tonight's Finale: The Himalayas to the horizon, gives me such a feeling of wild grandeur."
"Tonight's finale:You hear all about the man in the moon, but what about the man in Patagonia?"
"As I look at the verdant fjords and inlets of southern NZ, I ask myself can this possibly be real? Yet there it is."
"Where there's water, there's life. Serpentine river and center pivot irrigation farms in South Africa."
"A lot of the Australian Outback looks like somebody spilled something on it."
"Tonight's Finale: Asteroid impact - the Manicouagan Crater in Quebec. On old scar, but a big one at 100 km across."
"Split, Croatia, a fine natural harbor on the gorgeously rugged Adriatic coast."
"Cape Town, South Africa, the glinting sun highlighting the water."
"King George's Sound, Australia. Charles Darwin got off the Beagle and hosted a dance here in February, 1836."
Haruna From Feb. 21
"Eye of the Storm - Tropical Cyclone Haruna, today over Madagascar, with Canadarm2 pointing at the eye."
"Tonight's Finale: The full moon rises over the only planet we have ever called home."
"Mama Iceberg and her litter of baby ice cubes, slowly melting into the South Atlantic Ocean."
"The Outback is full of scary faces, staring up in forbidding horror."
"Tonight's finale: Northern Lights - recent aurora in green and red waves, USA and Canada below, the universe above."
"Clouds, shadows and sand, playing with my imagination."
"Earth has a bellybutton! My guess is that this perfect African circle is a meteor impact crater."
BONUS: Space Pajamas
"Weightless in my new space pajamas - made in Russia, very warm and comfy."
Next: The ISS On Twitter
<blockquote>Oil drilling draws a circuit board on the ochre landscape. pic.twitter.com/piYgOCsWYQ</blockquote>
<blockquote>Tonight's Finale: The Richat Structure. A giant gazing eye upon the Earth. pic.twitter.com/Uqv9JSh17b</blockquote>
<blockquote>An angry thunderstorm stands out against infinity. pic.twitter.com/du78qXnViK</blockquote>
<blockquote>Mt Etna, pouring heat and steam and smoke up through the snowcap. Earth never ceases to amaze. pic.twitter.com/xVjJ9oiwkW</blockquote>
<blockquote>Cloud over western Europe, rippled like water over a stone. pic.twitter.com/nlryEezlwh</blockquote>
<blockquote>Perth on the Swan to the sea, Western Australia. pic.twitter.com/MvrIuCs8eT</blockquote>
Chris Hadfield In Water
In this photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 7, 2013, the Greek Island of Corfu is shown. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)
RE-TRANS FOR HIGHER RESOLUTION - This Tuesday Jan. 8, 2013 photo provided by NASA, taken by Astronaut Chris Hadfield from the International Space Station, shows a view of the wildfire near Burrinjuck Dam in Australia. Look closely and you can see the flames from orbit. (AP Photo/NASA, Chris Hadfield)
In this photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 7, 2013, corn rows of sand, tightly sculpted by wind, heat and time is shown in Saudi Arabia. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)
In this photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 6, 2013, a Noctilucent Cloud, a rare super high altitude cloud barely visible from Earth, is seen at dawn in the mesosphere from International Space Station. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)
Newfoundland and Labrador, shot without zoom, is shown in a photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 7, 2013. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)
In this photo posted on Twitter by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on Jan. 5, 2013, the cities of Cleveland, Toledo, Ohio, and Detroit are shown. Hadfield is on a five-month visit to the space station and will become the first Canadian to take command of the giant orbiting laboratory in March. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield) (AP Photo/The Canadian Press via NASA,Chris Hadfield)
The transfer of command to Hadfield, and the start of what's officially designated "Expedition 35," will happen at 5:10 p.m. ET.
Hadfield takes over the top job in outer space from NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, the station's 34th commander.
Former Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk is confident his old colleague will do a good job. Thirsk spent six months on the station in 2009 — a record stay for a Canadian. One of Canada's first six original astronauts, he retired in August 2012.
"Chris Hadfield is an astronaut's astronaut," Thirsk told The Canadian Press in a recent interview. "He's got all the skills, the knowledge and the personality to excel as commander."
In past interviews, Hadfield has said that it was "a tremendous honour" to be entrusted with the lives of other astronauts and the space station.
Thirsk also pointed out that Canada is the smallest partner among the five agencies involved in the space station program.
"It makes a remarkable statement about the nature of this partnership when the smallest country has the opportunity to assume one of the more critical roles," he said.
Aside from Hadfield, the only other space station commander who wasn't either American or Russian was Frank De Winne of Belgium, who was in charge while Thirsk was spacebound. De Winne is a member of the European Space Agency.
Thirsk credited De Winne with creating a harmonious atmosphere.
He said Hadfield, a native of Sarnia, Ont., has to be ready for anything.
"In the event of an emergency when the station might lose communications with mission control on the ground, it'll be Chris who must take directive action and keep the crew and the station safe," he added.
As recently as Feb. 19, there was a temporary loss of communication between the space station and the ground, which lasted for several hours.
Recalling his own experience, Thirsk had some advice for Hadfield during his stint as station commander: "Keep 'em laughing."
"Once a week, we would have these conferences with the main managers of the ground support team and we would spend half of the time just laughing," he said.
"You know things are going well when that happens."
Hadfield is on his third space mission.
His first trip was an eight-day mission in November 1995, when he visited the Russian Space Station Mir. His second was a visit to the International Space Station in April 2001, when he performed two space walks during an 11-day voyage.