Ryan Marciniak, Physics & Astronomy Editor
David Saint-Jacquesis Canada’s first astronaut to fly a mission on board the International Space Station (ISS) since Chris Hadfield commanded the vessel in 2013. Since his arrival on December 3rd, 2018, David has participated in a broad variety of tasks, including equipment repairs, science data gathering, spacewalks, and outreach activities with students across Canada.
His mission has been a wild ride. Aside from orbiting the Earth at more than 27,000 km/h, there have been some controversial events during his time on board the ISS.
Not long after David arrived, his mission commander Oleg Kononenko conducted a spacewalk to investigate a mysterious hole in the Soyuz capsule that caused a loss of air pressure. Originally thought to have been caused by a micrometeorite, Kononenko and his fellow cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev concluded the hole had been deliberately drilled from inside the capsule, prompting promises of an investigation from NASA and Roscosmos. The investigation is currently ongoing.
With the hole patched and the crew’s safety assured, David had other things to focus on.
Christmas cookie: making use of zero-G to go 3-D!
"The first tridimensional Christmas cookie" pic.twitter.com/Z6vj2z5eIR
— David Saint-Jacques (@Astro_DavidS) December 26, 2018
In March, a Soyuz launch brought some new crewmembers, including NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague. Koch and astronaut Anne McClain were the subject of excitement back on Earth, as they were scheduled for the first ever all-female spacewalk on March 29th. Only four days before the historic event, NASA announced that Hague would take McClain’s place, because of a space suit sizing issue. McClain had trained on both a medium and large sized suit torso, but decided a medium was a better fit. Rather than preparing another suit for McClain, a personnel switch was made, saving valuable astronaut time for more important tasks. This change prompted a stir back on Earth that had to be cleared up in interviews. Despite the controversy, David had a smile on his face as he focused on the excitement he felt for his colleagues.
Ce matin, Anne et moi avons aidé nos amis Christina et Nick à revêtir leur combinaison pour la sortie spatiale! pic.twitter.com/tpBAZHnEcj
— David Saint-Jacques (@Astro_DavidS) March 29, 2019
In early April, India tested its capacity to destroy one of its old low-orbit satellites. This produced over 400 pieces of orbital debris and created a potentially dangerous situation for ISS astronauts. Just one piece of debris could create a catastrophe for the space station, placing astronaut lives in danger. The Indian test increased the collision risk for the ISS by 44 percent over 10 days. Any person would be shaken by such an event, but just days after the event, David was focused on his work, trying on his spacesuit in advance of his first spacewalk.
After spending a few days putting together my spacesuit and tools, today I tried them on. Like a dress rehearsal! // Après avoir passé quelques jours à assembler ma combinaison et mes outils, je les essaie aujourd’hui. Comme dans une répétition générale! pic.twitter.com/8kB5vitOgW
— David Saint-Jacques (@Astro_DavidS) April 5, 2019
A Positive Work Ethic
Outside of all the danger and controversy, David had work to do. Astronaut duties include collecting data for science experiments, and acting as a science experiment.
Tweets to embed, use one or the other:
Proud to set up the Bio-Monitor this morning! This Canadian technology has great potential for monitoring the health not only of astronauts, but also of anyone living far from medical facilities. #DareToExplore pic.twitter.com/8EXI9nYZgY
— David Saint-Jacques (@Astro_DavidS) January 16, 2019
Chris Hadfield set a precedent for modern astronauts with his use of social media and his ability to make astronaut life accessible to the public back on Earth. David followed in Chris’ footsteps by running two major competitions for children and youth across Canada, Little Inventors and the Astro Pi coding challenge. He found many occasions for interviews with Canadian news organizations on the ground, and spoke to children and youth in schools across the country.
The ISS is maintained by the astronauts on board, who need to act as doctors, scientists, cleaners, and mechanics. During a particularly messy day, David was able to add ‘space plumber’ to his resume.
Video: CSA/NASA pic.twitter.com/CzMcUaH04b
— CanadianSpaceAgency (@csa_asc) February 8, 2019
Despite the messy repair work and his role as science guinea pig, David was able to have some amazing moments on board, receiving the crew Dragon capsule during its first flight and automated docking with the ISS.
— David Saint-Jacques (@Astro_DavidS) March 3, 2019
He also had the opportunity to conduct a spacewalk, the pinnacle of astronaut experiences. He captured this beautiful moment and shared it with the world.
— David Saint-Jacques (@Astro_DavidS) April 9, 2019
A Role Model
Through all of the long hours, unexpected events, and dangerous moments, David has been a calm and collected presence. He has approached each situation with the professionalism and focus of a true astronaut, and with the positivity and work ethic of a true Canadian.
His expected return on June 26th will end his mission and allow others to follow in his footsteps. We should all be proud that Canada is part of an international collaboration of space agencies, and that we have great citizens to represent us like Jeremy Hansen, Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons, Joshua Kutryk, and David Saint-Jacques.
Spaceflight has a bright future, and with the Moon and Mars on the horizon, Canada will be a part of it.
For more information on David and his journey, check out this Science Borealis post published prior to his launch on December 3, 2018.
Banner Image: Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques conducts his first spacewalk. Image: Canadian Space Agency/NASA