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Frequently asked questions – Astronauts

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Canadian astronauts

  • How many Canadian astronauts are there?

    Since 1983, 14 Canadians have been selected to become astronauts.

    Ten of the people are now retired from the Canadian Space Agency.

    Currently there are four active Canadian astronauts: Jeremy Hansen, David Saint-Jacques, Jenni Sidey-Gibbons and Joshua Kutryk.

    Canadian astronauts

  • Canadian astronauts: Who was the first Canadian to fly into space?

    Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space when he participated in Mission STS-41G in October 1984.

  • Canadian astronauts: Who was the first Canadian to conduct a spacewalk?

    Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian to set foot in space. He conducted two spacewalks to help attach the powerful Canadarm2 to the International Space Station during Mission STS-100 in .

  • Canadian astronauts: How many Canadian astronauts have conducted a spacewalk?

    David Saint-Jacques is the fourth Canadian Space Agency astronaut to step outside the ISS to perform a spacewalk.

    • In , Chris Hadfield performed two spacewalks during Mission STS-100. He was the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk. In total, Chris spent 14 hours and 54 minutes outside.
    • In , Steve MacLean became the second Canadian to perform a spacewalk during Mission STS-115. He spent 7 hours and 11 minutes in space.
    • In , Dave Williams took part in three spacewalks during Mission STS-118. He spent 17 hours and 47 minutes outside, a Canadian record.
    • In , David Saint-Jacques took part in his first spacewalk during Expedition 59. He worked outside the Station for six and a half hours to complete a series of tasks.

    Visit our FTP website to watch their spacewalks.

  • Canadian astronauts: Where do the astronauts live when they are not on a space mission?

    Active Canadian astronauts live in Houston, Texas. They work at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

    They travel back to Canada periodically to meet and speak with Canadians, participate in outreach events, and encourage young Canadians to pursue their education in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

    Their training often takes them to other places around the world, such as Russia, Japan and Europe.

  • Canadian astronauts: What do astronauts do when they are not on a space mission?

    Visit the About the job page to learn more.

How to contact astronauts

  • How can I contact an astronaut?

    The contact information of active and retired astronauts is confidential. However, you can write them an email or send a letter to:

    Canadian Astronaut Office
    Attention: [Astronaut's name]
    Canadian Space Agency
    6767 Route de l'Aéroport
    Longueuil, Quebec J3Y 8Y9

    For any interview request, please contact Media Relations.

  • How can I invite an astronaut to be a guest speaker at an event?

    Visit the Invite a Canadian astronaut to an event page to learn more.

  • Where can I find out more about Chris Hadfield?

    To find out more about our former astronaut Chris Hadfield, please consult his (Chris Hadfield) biography. You may also visit his (Chris Hadfield) website.

Working in space

  • How often do astronauts conduct scientific experiments on the International Space Station (ISS)?

    Astronauts conduct scientific experiments every day on the ISS, but they have a reduced workload on Saturday and Sunday.

Living in space

  • Can astronauts easily adapt to microgravity?

    Watch this video in which Chris Hadfield explains how the human body adapts to microgravity.

  • What do astronauts eat in space? Does weightlessness affect their sense of taste?

    Visit the Eating in space page to learn more.

  • What do astronauts eat on the International Space Station?

    Please visit our Eating in space page.

  • Does the food sent to astronauts on the International Space Station take up a lot of room?

    The mass, volume and density of food sent to the International Space Station depends on the type of food as well as its format: rehydratable, canned, natural state, etc.

    For example, for rehydratable foods, each container without food has a mass of approximately 5 g. The maximum amount of rehydrated food is 40 g, and the maximum water added to the container is 250 ml. The amount of water added to different rehydratable foods varies depending on the food: some products only require 75 ml of water, while others require 250 ml.

    For more information, please visit the Eating in space page.

  • What do the astronauts' personal quarters look like on the International Space Station?

    Visit the Sleeping in space page to learn more.

  • How often do astronauts exercise on the International Space Station?

    Visit the Physical activity in space page to learn more.

  • Isn't it lonely on the International Space Station?

    Here is retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's answer to this question:

    "In the centre of every big city in the world, surrounded by noise and teeming millions of people, are lonely people.

    Loneliness is not so much where you are, but instead is your state of mind. On Station with the world in our window, people on the radio, family just a phone call away, and other crew members to chat with, plus a full plate of experiments and work to do.

    Loneliness is no more of a problem than it is everywhere else."

  • Can you cry in space?

    Yes! You can cry in space and your eyes make tears, just like on Earth. However, because of weightlessness, tears don't fall in space; they stick to your eyes as liquid balls.

    Astronauts need to use handkerchiefs to wipe their tears.

  • How do you go to the bathroom in space?

    Visit the Personal hygiene in space page to learn more.

  • What does space smell like?

    The vacuum of space has no smell. But when astronauts come in from a spacewalk, the airlock smells like metal or gunpowder.

  • What does space look like from the International Space Station?

    According to retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, "It looks like a carpet of countless tiny perfect unblinking lights in endless velvet, with the Milky Way as a glowing area of paler texture."

  • How do astronauts on the International Space Station wash their clothes?

    It is impossible to wash clothes on board the ISS! Quite simply, it would take too much water.

    The astronauts therefore wear their clothes until they are too dirty and then throw them out. All ISS waste burns up in the atmosphere on re-entry.

    For more information, please visit the Personal hygiene in space page.

  • How do astronauts take a shower in space?

    Visit the Personal hygiene in space page to learn more.

  • What is the prettiest thing to look at from space?

    All astronauts give the same answer: planet Earth!

    Julie Payette never grew tired of "the magnificent beauty of our planet. From space, it looks like a blue and white marble against a backdrop of blackness. In orbit, you can see the clouds, the oceans, the mountains, and even the general shape of major cities and airports."

  • Do female astronauts get their period in space?

    Yes, female astronauts get their period in space just like they do on Earth. No menstrual problems have been associated with living in microgravity.

    In the early years of human space flight, some worried that women would not have their periods safely in microgravity. They thought that microgravity might cause menstrual fluid to travel upwards into the body instead of out of it – also called retrograde menstrual flow. This would mean that blood would flow from the uterine cavity into the fallopian tubes and then into the pelvis and abdomen, causing pain and increasing the risk for endometriosis. While this has not been observed in past space missions, more studies are needed to better understand how the body works and reacts to microgravity.

    For a variety of reasons, however, many female astronauts prefer to take low-dose oral contraceptives in a continuous fashion to reduce or stop menses during a long-duration mission; therefore, accumulating information on natural menstrual cycles in space is expected to take several years.

  • How does water reach the International Space Station (ISS)?

    Part of the water on the ISS is sent through bags in supply vessels. The other part is recycled from the water that is already on board!

    Check out this video where Chris Hadfield demonstrates how the Water Recovery System works, recycling 93% of the water and other fluids produced on board! The wastewater (urine, moisture, sweat, etc.) is purified to make drinking water. Since the system was implemented in 2010, about 6,000 litres of water per year have been recycled on the ISS.

    The ISS is practically a self-sustaining environment in terms of drinking water production. This is a critical step towards living for long periods off of planet Earth, and it is also useful in remote parts of the world!

Hazards of space

  • What kinds of hazards are astronauts exposed to on the job?

    The biggest danger is launch - all that power and acceleration.

    Once they are in orbit, astronauts face a steady threat of radiation, meteorite impacts, and system failure on the International Space Station, like fire, ammonia breakthrough, or depressurization.

  • Can astronauts hear it when meteorites hit the International Space Station (ISS) or the solar panels?

    Sometimes astronauts hear "pings!" as micrometeorites and bits of space debris hit the ISS. The solar panels are full of tiny holes from the impacts!

  • Aren't astronauts scared to be in space?

    Here is retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's answer to this question:

    "Fear comes from being unprepared when facing the unknown.

    Being thrust into an unexpected situation and not knowing what to do makes everyone uncomfortable, and thus we fear it, especially if it can embarrass or kill us. As astronauts, we avoid this by working for years to understand the unknown, and decide in advance what we will do.

    That's why we study so much, and why we live and work in simulators. Often the 1st time you try something hard you are nervous, but the 50th time it feels normal. We try and make everything that might happen during a space flight feel just like that.

    So it's not that we're extra-brave - we're just extra-prepared."

  • Is it cold or hot in space?

    Both! The International Space Station (ISS) orbits 350 to 400 km above the Earth's surface. In the shade, it's -120 degrees Celsius, and +150 degrees Celsius in the sun.

    The astronauts can hear the creaks and snaps of expanding metal as the ISS goes in and out of the sunlight!

    The farther from the sun, the colder it is. These significant temperature differences need to be taken into careful consideration when designing spacecraft or satellites.

  • What are the health hazards related to space exploration?

    Please consult the How does space affect the human body? infographic and the Effects of space on the body page.

Time and schedule in space

Space exploration

  • How can I see a launch?

    July 8, 2011, marked the final launch of the Space Shuttle Program.

    However, there are other unmanned launches that take place at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Please refer to the KSC website for more information about how to watch a launch from an official launch-viewing area.

    Other sites exist in Europe, French Guyana and Kazakhstan, for example. Visit those space agencies' websites to learn more.

    Remember that nowadays, it's much easier to see launches on the Web, thanks to social media!

  • What is the longest time anyone has ever spent in space?

    Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka holds the record for the longest accumulated stay in space, clocking 879 days in orbit, during five different missions.

    Another Russian cosmonaut, Dr. Valeri Polyakov, holds the record for the longest continuous stay in space: 437 days, 17 hours and 38 minutes (14 months) on Mir, from January 1994 to March 1995.

Speed and location of the International Space Station

  • How long does it take for the International Space Station (ISS) to orbit the Earth?

    The ISS orbits the world every 92 minutes at an average altitude of 360 km. That's a speed of 8 km, 500 km/minute or 28,000 km/hr. Or about Mach 25!

  • Where is the International Space Station right now?

    Visit the How to see the Space Station from your backyard page.

  • Can I see the International Space Station from my backyard?

    Yes! Visit the How to see the Space Station from your backyard page.

Internet and social media in space

  • How do astronauts find the time to use social media on the International Space Station?

    Astronauts work in the labs all day. But when there's a short break between events, they can quickly zip in and share what they're doing, or send a recent picture.

    It's a new and extremely simple way to share the incredible adventure of space travel, with the rawness of immediacy.

    Visit the Relaxing in space page to learn more.

  • How can astronauts use Twitter or social media from space?

    Astronauts use social media on a regular laptop. The International Space Station signal is relayed via satellite to a mirror site at Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas.

    Though the connection is very slow, and only available at certain times of the day (depending on satellite links), it allows for direct, simple access to the Internet, making it perfect for Twitter and other social media.

    Visit the Relaxing in space page to learn more.

Taking pictures and filming in space

  • Does time spent taking pictures affect the scientific work?

    Taking pictures of the Earth is a designated part of the scientific work on board the International Space Station.

    Astronauts track:

    • climate change
    • urban sprawl
    • major events like volcanic eruptions and hurricanes

    It's also a favourite hobby to pursue in the evening. Check out this video where Chris Hadfield shares his techniques and his passion for capturing fleeting glimpses of our changing world.

  • What kind of cameras do astronauts use to take photos of the Earth from the International Space Station (ISS)?

    The cameras on the ISS are continuously replaced as new models come out. The vast majority of the cameras are now Nikon D4, but some of the older cameras have been kept.

    Astronauts use a variety of lenses out to 400 mm. They can even take them out into the vacuum of space!

  • How do astronauts know what part of the Earth they are over when they take pictures?

    Since the International Space Station (ISS) orbits Earth every 92 minutes, astronauts get to know the planet pretty well… sort of like how you know your own neighbourhood!

    Astronauts also have a computer on the ISS that detects their location, plus a couple of big atlases.

  • Why don't astronauts take photos of the stars or the Moon?

    They can, but most of the windows on the International Space Station face the Earth.

    To photograph the stars, they also need to make it dark, and the upwards-facing windows are in brightly lit locations.

    And finally, the stars, though clear and bright from space, are not significantly different from what we see on a very clear and dark night on Earth. And our planet's details and contrasts are much more mesmerizing!

  • Why are the night shots covered in small multi-coloured dots?

    Photos from the International Space Station are taken with a high ISO parameter. With the high radiation in space, the pixels die much faster.

    Therefore, the night shots come out covered in dots that look like multi-coloured stars. White spots mean all (RGB) subpixels have failed. Red, green and blue spots mean a failure of any number of the other subpixels.

  • Do astronauts edit the videos they make on the International Space Station?

    The Canadian Space Agency edits and posts the Canadian astronauts' videos on social media.

  • Can you see Earth pollution from space?

    Yes, Earth pollution is visible from space.

    Light pollution

    The Cities at Night project – a collaboration of the Universidad Complutense of Madrid, the Cégep de Sherbrooke and members of the public – is tracking light pollution.

    The project aims to:

    • collect thousands of pictures taken by astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS)
    • generate a colour map of Earth at night
    • study the negative effects of light pollution on ecosystems and human health

    Atmospheric pollution

    Satellites – including our Canadian Earth observation satellites – monitor our environment and the effects of pollution on air, water and land.

    For example, they can collect data on carbon monoxide emissions across the globe, and track whether they are from natural or human sources.

    Also, from the ISS, astronauts can clearly see:

    • forest clearcutting
    • volcanic eruptions
    • wildfires
    • river pollution
    • smog

Astronaut recruitment

  • When was the Canadian Space Agency's last recruitment campaign?

    The last astronaut recruitment campaign was held in . Three other campaigns were held in , and .

    Visit the recruitment campaign and the History of the Canadian Astronaut Corps pages to learn more.

  • What are the requirements to become an astronaut?

    Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page and the astronauts page to learn more.

  • Can you describe the tests the candidates were put through during the last recruitment process?

    Read our Astronaut Recruitment Campaign recap.

  • How were the tests developed?

    The CSA's astronaut recruitment campaign online application was done in collaboration with the Public Service Commission.

    The evaluation tools used to assess the candidates as part of the CSA's astronaut recruitment campaign were developed in collaboration with the Department of National Defence's Director of Fitness (DFIT) and Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis. These candidates' assessments were executed with direct support from the following organizations:

    • Department of National Defence
      • Personnel Support Program from Saint-Jean Garrison and Canadian Forces Base Halifax
      • Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis
      • DFIT Human Performance Research and Development
    • Canadian Armed Forces
      • Specialist officers from various Canadian Forces bases
      • Saint-Jean Garrison
      • 2nd Canadian Division Support Group
      • Canadian Forces Base Halifax
      • Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School, Damage Control Division
    • Private companies
      • Falck Safety Canada
      • Survival Systems Training Limited
      • Concept-R

    The medical assessment of the candidates was conducted with direct support from the Canadian Forces Health Services Group and the following organizations:

    • North York General Hospital
    • North York Eye Clinic
    • Life Labs
  • How did the CSA ensure a diversified pool of candidates?

    The recruitment campaign was open to all Canadians who met the education and professional experience requirements. More than 13% of the 3772 applications received were submitted by people who self-identified as visible minorities, and about 22.5% were women. The CSA received applications from all regions of Canada, as well as from Canadians living abroad.

    The selection process was designed to be rigorous and meet the highest standards of fairness. The selected candidates are those who best met all requirements for the position.

  • What kind of training do new astronauts receive?

    All astronaut recruits must take a three-phase training program.

    New astronauts first undergo basic training, which focuses on basic astronaut skills. It covers many subjects, from space flight to life science, robotics, Earth Observation, media relations and handling of photo equipment.

    Recruits will also be put in challenging situations to help them develop their operational and analytical skills as well as judgment in extreme conditions. They will learn to fly a plane; practise spacewalking in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a 12-metre-deep swimming pool; and participate in space mission simulations and survival expeditions.

    Upon successful completion of the basic training program, candidates are officially given the title of astronaut and move on to the next phase of their training.

  • What is the annual salary of an astronaut?

    The astronauts' salary scale has three levels:

    1. Entry level: Includes the training period (formal training and work experience) required to become fully proficient in an operational setting related to space flight.
    2. Qualified level: Is attained after successful completion of the NASA Astronaut Basic Training Program or equivalent. The astronaut is then deemed fully qualified and awaits a space mission assignment.
    3. Senior level: Is attained once the astronaut has successfully completed a space mission.

    The salary scale for Levels I to III varies from $91,300 to $178,400.

  • What type of employment contract are astronauts given?

    Astronauts are hired on a term basis.

    The initial appointment serves as an evaluation period, lasting up to two years. Upon successful completion of the evaluation period, the astronaut will be offered a five-year term appointment, which may be renewed.

  • What exactly do astronauts do?

    Visit the About the job page to learn more.

  • What are the best programs of study in order to become an astronaut?

    The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) does not recommend any particular program of study.

    You should choose a program of study that you love. That way, regardless of which career path you take, you will be doing something that will help you reach your potential.

    The CSA generally recruits scientists, engineers and doctors with extensive knowledge and experience.

    Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more. You can also get to know Canada's active and retired astronauts by visiting the astronauts page.

  • Are there any age restrictions on becoming an astronaut?

    No. For your reference, the applicants chosen in by the Canadian Space Agency were 33 and 39 years old when they were selected, and those in were 29 and 35 years old.

    The applicants chosen by NASA in 2013 were between ages 26 and 46 when they were selected.

    Learn more about our Canadian astronauts and their careers.

  • Is it necessary to be a Canadian citizen to become a Canadian astronaut?

    Applicants must be:

    • Canadian citizens; or
    • Permanent residents of Canada.
      • Preference will be given to Canadian citizens.

    Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more.

  • Do you need any experience as a pilot to become an astronaut?

    No. However, piloting experience, be it military or private, is a definite asset for any astronaut candidate.

    Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more.

  • Are applications accepted from people who have undergone laser vision correction surgery?

    Yes, applicants who have undergone refractive laser surgery (PRK or LASIK) are eligible.

    However, the Canadian Space Agency does not recommend that applicants undergo refractive laser surgery for the sole purpose of applying for employment as an astronaut.

    Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more about the required visual acuity.

  • Is it important to know how to swim in order to become an astronaut?

    It is essential for astronauts to be able to swim, tread water and swim underwater.

    During their basic training, astronauts participate in training to prepare them for spacewalks and space missions. As this training often takes place underwater, scuba diving certification is necessary.

    In addition, astronauts in training are required to fly jets. To do so, they must successfully complete a military aquatic survival course.

    During the recruitment campaign evaluations, applicants will be required to take a swimming test and demonstrate the following abilities:

    • Swim at least 250 metres in 10 minutes;
    • Tread water for at least 10 minutes;
    • Swim at least 15 metres underwater.
  • Is the evaluation process physically demanding?

    Yes. Astronaut candidates have to undergo examinations designed to evaluate their ability to become astronauts.

    Because of the physical nature of this career, good physical fitness is essential.

    Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more.

  • In the last astronaut recruitment campaign, how many of the applicants were visible minorities?

    The astronaut recruitment campaign was open to all Canadians who met the education and professional experience requirements. 13.5% of the 3,772 applications received were submitted by applicants who self-identified as visible minorities.

    The selection process was designed to be rigorous and meet the highest standards of fairness. The selected candidates are those who best met all requirements for the position.

    Learn more about the astronaut recruitment campaign: Meet Canada's two new astronauts.

  • What are the requirements and conditions of employment for Canadian astronauts?

    Please visit the Requirements and conditions of employment for astronauts page and the How to become an astronaut page.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques - Mission

  • When did David Saint-Jacques launch to the International Space Station (ISS)?

    David Saint-Jacques and his Expedition 58 crewmates launched to the ISS on , aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which also brought them back to Earth.

    Visit the important dates page to learn more.

  • How long was David Saint-Jacques aboard the International Space Station?

    David Saint-Jacques has lived and worked on the International Space Station for almost seven months, from to . At 204 days, it is the longest Canadian mission to date.

  • How long did it take David and his crewmates to get to the International Space Station?

    The rendezvous took place about six hours after lift-off, after the Soyuz had circled Earth four times.

  • Who were the crew members?

    Visit the crew page to learn more.

  • What were David Saint-Jacques' roles and responsibilities during the mission?

    Visit the David's roles and responsibilities page to learn more.

  • What Canadian science activities were conducted on the International Space Station during this mission?

    Visit the David's health science activities page to learn more.

  • Did David Saint-Jacques perform a spacewalk?

    On , David Saint-Jacques performed his first spacewalk on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) for six hours and twenty-nine minutes. He was joined by NASA astronaut Anne McClain. Visit the International Space Station news page to learn more.

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