'Extraordinary experience': Canada's David Saint-Jacques to launch into space Monday
If all goes as planned, at 6:31 a.m. ET Monday, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will be riding a Russian Soyuz rocket launched from Kazakhstan, en route to the International Space Station (ISS).
Saint-Jacques will be joined by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and American astronaut Anne McClain on the mission, with the trio set to dock with the ISS six hours later.It's the first time a Canadian has been in space since 2013, when Chris Hadfield gained immense popularity around the world as he provided glimpses — and the occasional musical performance — into daily life on board the orbiting laboratory."I don't think I'm going to try to top what Chris did in terms of entertainment," Saint-Jacques said. "That's his forte."
"That's something that every first-time flyer on a Russian spacecraft has done ever since [first astronaut] Yuri Gagarin, and so I had the privilege to plant my own tree. A poplar."
« Cosmonaut Alley » at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Each tree planted by a space traveler. First on the left is Gagarin’s! <a href="https://t.co/MdfVEATn63">pic.twitter.com/MdfVEATn63</a>—@Astro_DavidS
This could be the last time a Canadian launches on board a Soyuz: NASA is preparing to return beginning in 2019, with two new crew capsules provided by SpaceX and Boeing.
During his six-and-a-half months on the ISS, Saint-Jacques will be hard at work. Astronauts conduct several experiments daily, many of which are studying the effects of weightlessness on the human body, something that keenly interests him."Going to space is certainly an extraordinary experience — but it's not good for you in any way," he said. "As a doctor, I'm well aware of everything that can go wrong, and thankfully we've developed a lot of mitigations and medications.... [But] that's a big part of my personal interest: To self-monitor the symptoms and effects and [see] how we can mitigate that."
For more than nine years, Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen have been training together in preparation for launch. In 2016, the Canadian Space Agency announced Saint-Jacques would be the next to fly after Hadfield.Hansen is thrilled that day has come for Saint-Jacques."I'm very excited for David.… The goal for both of us has been the same: that we would fly in space," Hansen said. "I know it's going to be an incredible experience for him … I just know it's going to be a great mission."