Commander Chris Hadfield on Readiness in a Crisis

Commander Chris Hadfield on Readiness in a Crisis

Readiness is important for success, especially in space. Learn about astronaut Chris Hadfield's experience averting a crisis on Expedition 35, and how you can use his preparedness tips in your own life and work.


Chris Hadfield: A Quick Overview

Astronaut from Canada Chris Hadfield is an accomplished astronaut. Colonel Chris Hadfield was assigned to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in 1992. For twenty-five space shuttle missions, he served as NASA's Chief CapCom. Colonel Hadfield was chosen by NASA as a NASA Mission Specialist, and three years later, he was aboard the Shuttle Atlantis, where he assisted in the construction of the Mir space station. Colonel Hadfield performed two spacewalks on the Shuttle Endeavour in 2001, and in 2013, he became Commander of the International Space Station (ISS) for six months off the planet. Colonel Hadfield continues to amaze everyone he meets with the wonders of science and space exploration.


Definition of Readiness

The state of being ready is known as readiness. For example, career readiness refers to the foundation of higher education or a combination of experiences that prepares a person for a specific career path. In an emergency situation, readiness also refers to the ability and willingness to perform a task at the highest level with clarity and precision. To achieve this state of mind, you must be trained and confident in making and carrying out sound decisions.


Commander Chris Hadfield on Readiness: 3 Tips for Preparedness

An emergency occurred during Expedition 35 of the International Space Station in 2013. When the crew discovered a leak in the ammonia coolant, Commander Chris Hadfield acted quickly to prevent disaster. "Ammonia breakthrough is one of the worst emergencies on a spaceship because if you get one big lung full of ammonia, that could be the last breath you'll ever take," Chris says. Consider his preparedness advice:

1. Be self-assured. When a crisis occurs, rely on your training to help you manage your emotions. "It's [about] years of preparation, years of you don't get all worked up with peaks and valleys of emotions of things that could potentially happen," Chris explains. "But you have a deep reserve of competence and confidence so that you can do something that seems. . .hairy or wild and do it with assuredness—that is actually what you would prefer. Nobody wants a tense surgeon."

2. Act quickly. Your ability and willingness to act quickly is an important aspect of preparedness. "If you've done the work [and] if you've developed a certain set of skills, then you need to be able to act on it at some point," he says. "And don't procrastinate. Don't be evasive. Simply believe in yourself. Decide and proceed with the security of your own decision-making."

3. Investigate the situation. Make sure to conduct a post-event readiness assessment. "When you finish something, look back and debrief it, if not with everyone else involved," Chris advises. His ability to handle the ammonia crisis on the spaceship stemmed from ongoing learning, which was part of his readiness toolkit. "Not only did I survive that one," he says, "but I learned some things from it so that when the next crisis comes along, I'll be even better able to hopefully prevail and win and fix the new spaceship—however it chooses to break."