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From sky to space


Uploaded on December 17, 2013

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From sky to space

2013-12-17 - How do you prepare astronauts for the unknown? You put them in as many challenging situations as you can. On the 110th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight, Canadian Space Agency astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques explain why piloting planes is an integral part of astronaut training. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)


SUBJECT: CSA Astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques talk about flight training

Jeremy Hansen: All of the astronauts that I train with at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas are part of a flight training program. And depending on your background, it changes what part of that flight training program that you can take advantage of.

David Saint-Jacques: When I joined the Astronaut Corps, my only experience in flight was to fly hang gliders, paragliders, you know, soaring planes. So I had no pilot license at all. There were two things going on during the astronaut training. First, we were going through T-38 flight training. These are training jets. At the same time, I was going through commercial pilot training. And so these two endeavours in parallel just gave me, I think, the good skills to be comfortable as a pilot.

Jeremy Hansen: Seeing a CF-18 Hornet fly at the London Air Show when I was a child really inspired me to get involved in aviation. And when I was 12 years old, I joined a program called Air Cadets. And the Air Cadet program gave me tremendous opportunities to develop myself as a good Canadian citizen, to learn leadership, and eventually earn my wings as a glider pilot and a private pilot. All of those opportunities really took a shy, young farm boy and prepared me to join the Royal Canadian Air Force when I was old enough.

How do you prepare an astronaut for the unknowns of space? Well, the answer is you challenge them. You try to put them in as many unique and challenging circumstances as you can find. And aviation provides a lot of challenge.

David Saint-Jacques: Psychologically, being in an aircraft is very similar to being in a rocket because you are dependent on this machinery, you are in an uncomfortable cockpit, maybe wearing a helmet, an oxygen mask, there's tens of dials in front of you, you have to monitor all that data, the radio on many channels talking at the same time. You have to constantly filter out what is important and to make decisions that can have big impacts. You know, you cannot press pause while you're flying a jet.

Jeremy Hansen: You can train astronauts in simulators, but at the end of the day, anyone in a simulator knows that they're going to be going home safe and sound to their family. It's only when you can put someone in a situation where their decisions will actually affect whether they live or die that they begin to truly develop those operational skills that will allow them to make better decisions in places like low Earth orbit and beyond as we prepare to go to places like the moon, asteroids, and eventually Mars.


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