Chapter 16 of 29 from Chris Hadfield

Leadership: Commanding the ISS

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Chris describes the great honor and responsibility of commanding the ISS, ranks the commander’s priorities, and outlines what it takes to reach and fulfill such an elite and difficult leadership position.

Topics include: Protect the Crew, the Ship, and the Science • Create Strong Relationships Through Leadership • Keep Preparing, Learning, and Improving

Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield Teaches Space Exploration

In 28+ lessons, the former commander of the International Space Station teaches you the science of space exploration and what the future holds.

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Commanding the world's spaceship was a huge privilege. It's a huge responsibility. I'm here talking to you right now about it because I think the experience is rare enough and interesting enough and deep enough that it has value to other people's thinking, that you should consider what's going on right on the edge of the human experience. What does it mean, not only to us as a group of people, but what, individually, does it mean for one of us to be able to do that? How did you get to be a commander? What type of person do you need to be to do the things you're dreaming of? I think those lessons go beyond just the few months that I was commanding the spaceship. And I feel like there's an absolute necessity to share all those lessons as well as I possibly can, as just part of the natural follow on of the huge privilege of commanding the space station. The world only has one International Space Station. It's the world's spaceship. And so you take that part very seriously as an astronaut, but even more so when you're the commander of it. But you also have the lives of the people onboard. You're there with five other people. And it is a dangerous place to be, just by the very nature of being away from the planet. So you have that added responsibility, not only of the structure and the cost and the complexity of the ship, but of the health and, ultimately, the lives of the other five people on board. Takes a lot more work to be a commander than to be a crew member, but I think it's also more rewarding. I thought about it for a lot of years. How can I be a useful commander? How can I do this job as well as possible? What is it we're actually trying to accomplish together? What are the measures of success? If you're going to lead properly, you have to know what victory looks like. In our case, we defined victory-- number one, we are all going to live. Pretty simple. None of us are going to die doing this. If one of us dies, then nothing else really matters. So we agreed collectively that we would sacrifice everything to keep the six of us alive. Ship doesn't matter. Assuming that the six of us were going to live, then the next priority for me as commander, and to try and instill in the behaviors and thoughts of my crew, was, assuming all of us are going to live, then the ship is going to live. We're going to keep care of this extremely precious resource. We will, in fact, not only try and keep the ship alive, but the sub-agenda is, we want to hand a ship over to the next crew that's in better shape than when it was given to us. We're not the builders of this ship. We're not the owners of the ship. We're just taking care of it for a little while and passing it on to the next generation of astronauts that are on board. And then our third objective was the prime purpose of being there, and that is to get as many things done as possible, to try and make that as productive a spaceship, a science platform, a research station, to do all the things...

Explore the unknown

Impossible things happen. At age nine, Chris Hadfield knew he wanted to go to space. He eventually went there three times, becoming a commander of the International Space Station. In his MasterClass, Chris teaches you what it takes to explore space and what the future holds for humans in the final frontier. Learn about the science of space travel, life as an astronaut, and how flying in space will forever change the way you think about living on Earth.

Learn about the past, present, and future of space exploration with astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Download the workbook for lesson recaps, assignments, and photocopies of handwritten notes that Chris took to space.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Chris will also answer select student questions.

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Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield Teaches Space Exploration