David Saint-Jacques named next Canadian astronaut to fly to ISS
OTTAWA, Ontario — Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced the answer to a longstanding question: which of the two active Canadian astronauts would be next to fly a mission among the stars, performing research and representing Canada’s contribution to the International Space Station.
“Our government is proud of its commitment to science and its world-class space industry by providing in Budget 2016 up to $379 million over eight years towards the Canadian Space Agency’s partnership with the International Space Station,” Bains said. “Starting in August, our next Canadian astronaut, David Saint-Jacques, will begin training for his mission.”
While LCol Jeremy Hansen and Dr. Saint-Jacques were both selected by the Canadian Space Agency as a part of the same astronaut recruitment campaign and trained together as two of the 14 members in NASA’s 20th astronaut class, it was widely acknowledged over the years that the two would never be tapped to fly together as joint crew; one would inevitably be assigned a mission ahead of the other.
Since neither of them could possibly know which would be directed to carry the torch forward as Canada’s ninth astronaut to take to the stars, and the first to follow in the footsteps of the now legendary Chris Hadfield, their individual training and readiness programs proceeded at full pace and essentially in parallel.
As of today’s announcement, the way forward is now clear—David Saint-Jacques has been assigned to a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), scheduled to launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in November 2018 to join the international crew on board the orbiting laboratory. Expedition 58/59 will be the first mission for David Saint-Jacques and will mark the 17th space flight for the Canadian Astronaut Corps.
As a result of the CSA’s active community outreach and school age interpretation programs over the past number of years, it is thought that many more young Canadians are familiar with Saint-Jacques than any previous Canadian astronauts had been prior to their initial mission assignments.
To the extent that their training and travel schedules have permitted, both Saint-Jacques and Hansen have been very active in classrooms and communities across the country, presenting their unique viewpoints and perspectives on the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, as well as continued scientific and health-related research.
Canada’s space-related history and efforts stretch back further than many might be aware. In 1962, Canada became just the third country to have an orbiting satellite (Alouette 1) serve their nation’s interests, behind the Soviet Union and the United States.
During his time in space, Saint-Jacques will conduct a series of scientific experiments, robotics tasks and technology demonstrations, the details of which should be revealed later this year.
Two of the space station tasks which Saint-Jacques mentioned that he would be particularly excited to potentially perform in the future would be to have the honor of controlling the space station’s 57.7-foot (17.5-meter) Canadarm2 as it interfaces with the new and developing spacecraft being launched from the United States, or possibly even being chosen to venture outside of the station’s airlocks as part of a planned extra-vehicular activity (EVA). In dreaming of the tasks of his future mission, however, Saint-Jacques remained grateful for the inspiration of his predecessors, the vision of his nation’s leaders and the support of the scientific community to have afforded him this honor.
“Today, I stand on the shoulders of all the astronauts who came before me,” Saint-Jacques said, “They inspired me—they were my role models. They sparked my curiosity about space and made me want to experience space flight for myself. Space exploration is the next step for humanity, and I am proud to be part of it. I would like to thank the Canadian Space Agency for giving me this incredible opportunity. I am humbled to represent Canada on this mission and promise to give it my very best.”
In addition to his extensive training, the Quebec native will bring his expertise in medicine, engineering, and astrophysics to the Expedition 58/59 crew. In anticipation of this first assignment, Saint-Jacques will begin specialized mission training in Russia, Japan, the United States and Canada starting this summer and for the next two years until his flight.
Sean Costello is a technology professional who also researches, writes about and speaks publicly on the inspiring lessons within international space flight program. Prior to joining SpaceFlight Insider in early 2014, Costello was a freelance photographer and correspondent covering shuttle-era Kennedy Space Center launches for various radio and print news organizations.