Canadian astronaut set to blast off into space Monday
MONTREAL — Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques won’t be carrying much with him when he leaves Earth to blast off to the International Space Station on Monday.
If all goes according to plan, he will take off at 6:31 a.m. (Eastern Time) from the steppes of Kazakhstan on the first manned Russian rocket launch since a dramatic aborted Soyuz failure in October.
What does one take to space? A small shoebox containing items such as wedding rings and a watch.
“I brought a few personal items that remind me of my family, of my children, of my parents, my wife and the people I love on the planet, so they’re mainly mementoes,” he said recently, adding that his luggage has already been sent ahead.
There will also be a few Christmas presents, which he’ll unwrap as his family watches him back on Earth, his wife Veronique Morin said last week.
The 48-year-old doctor and astronaut has spent years training for the six-month mission, which was originally scheduled for Dec. 20 but was moved up after the aborted Soyuz launch.
Aboard the station, his role will include conducting a number of science experiments, some of which will focus on the physical effects of the weak gravity astronauts experience in orbit, as well as how to provide remote medical care.
And while he’s likely to keep in touch, he says Canadians shouldn’t expect a repeat of the out-of-this-world guitar performances that brought his predecessor Chris Hadfield international fame during his own stint on the space station in 2013.
“I don’t think I’m going to try to top what Chris did in terms of entertainment — that is his forte,” Saint-Jacques said on
Nov. 29. “We each go there with our own personalities and our own ambitions.”
People all over the world are expected to watch Monday’s launch with extra attention, given the fate of the previous mission. On Oct. 11, a rocket failure forced a Soyuz capsule carrying two astronauts to abort and make an emergency landing.
The crowd on the ground in Kazakhstan will include members of Saint-Jacques’ family as well as Governor General Julie Payette, herself a former astronaut.
Both Payette and Saint Jacques emphasize the strength and importance of Canada’s space contributions.
“To me, it’s the kind of innovative, creative, bold Canada that I would like my children to live in — Canada is there to stay in space,” Saint-Jacques said.
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques blows a kiss through safety glass during a news conference Sunday in Kazakhstan.