Mar 14, 2013 / 1:00 am
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 that 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 is the start of what's officially designated "Expedition 35."
Rookie Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques said the top job in outer space doesn't come easy, adding that it's the highest accolade that an astronaut can receive.
"To be named commander requires an astronaut to have previous flight experience and this is Chris' third mission," he said from Houston. "It's a little bit like a gold medal."
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