At 48, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques will start his first and possibly only mission to the International Space Station in late December.
David Saint-Jacques is a rare astronaut
Saint-Jacques is the rare astronaut that is qualified in four disciplines. He has an engineering physics degree and PhD in Astrophysics, is a licensed doctor and has a commercial pilot license. That last skill will come in handy when on December 19 (Eastern time), already December 20 in Kazakhstan, he’ll co-pilot the Soyuz spacecraft as it launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to the International Space Station. And it’s no small feat to co-pilot the Soyuz. Chris Hadfield set the precedent and translated the pilots training manual from Russian to English. For Saint-Jacques though, he also speaks Russian.
Once on orbit he’ll work for six months on the ISS spending 50% of his time working with the other astronauts to keep the space station in top operating condition. The other 50% of his time will be doing a lot of research including some important medical experiments that are aimed at benefiting humans on Earth.
Saint-Jacques was selected as an astronaut nine years ago. He spent the first two years learning to be an astronaut. After basic training he was first assigned to the Robotics Branch of the NASA Astronaut Office, then successively acted as Support Astronaut for ISS Expedition 35/36; Lead Capsule Communicator (or Capcom, the Mission Control space-to-ground radio operator) for ISS Expedition 38; Deputy Capcom for Cygnus-1 and Cygnus-2 ISS resupply missions; and Lead Capcom for the Cygnus-3, Cygnus-4 and SpaceX-6 ISS resupply missions. He also recently acted as a Capcom instructor and supported the Visiting Vehicle Operations in the ISS Integration Branch.
In May 2016 he was assigned his first mission. Based on what Saint-Jacques says in his interviews, he’s seemingly has been training to be an astronaut and most of his adult life.
Ironically when Saint-Jacques launches in December it will be six years to the day the last Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, visited the ISS. It was four years between missions for Hadfield and Robert Thirsk who flew in 2009. And between 1992 and 2009, 17 years, Canadians went on 14 missions. It wasn’t uncommon for a Canadian astronaut at the time to have 2 missions and for a lucky two, Chris Hadfield and Marc Garneau, 3 missions.
However as funding as gone down over the years for Canada’s space program, the amount of available missions has decreased and time between missions has increased.
After Saint-Jacques upcoming mission end in June 2019, Jeremy Hansen will fly no earlier than 2022. At best that’s three years between missions. And what of Canada’s newest astronauts Joshua Kutryk and Jennifer Sidey? When will they fly? Selected in 2017 and following the current pattern they might not fly until 2025 or 2026. By then Saint-Jacques will be 54. Which is to say, at the current level of funding it might be hard to get a second flight for Saint-Jacques. But with his skill set and a great performance on this upcoming mission, who knows what might happen.
On September 6th Saint-Jacques took time from his busy training schedule to talk to the media. This included a press conference followed by a very brief one-on-one interviews with the media. SpaceQ had the opportunity to spend a few minutes talking to Saint-Jacques.
That Q&A presented here is preceded by his introductory remarks at the new conference and is followed by questions from the media. Listen in.
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