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LIVE – CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques answers questions from media


Uploaded on December 10, 2018


LIVE – CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques answers questions from media

2018-12-10 - Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques answers questions from media on his first press conference from the International Space Station. (Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NASA)


DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Houston, this is Station. I am ready.

MALE VOICE: Canadian Space Agency, this is Mission Control, Houston. Please call Station for a voice check.

FEMALE HOST: Station, this is CSA PAO. How do you hear me?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: I have you loud and clear. How me?

FEMALE HOST: We can hear you loud and clear.

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Welcome on board the International Space Station. I am ready to speak with you. 

FEMALE HOST: Okay, David. We have many media here, at the CSA, and they all have one question for you to start with. As a physician what changes or experiences are you noticing as your body adjusts to being in space?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: So, adjusting to space is a new thing for me, and it is -- we get a lot of training back on the ground, around the world, in Houston, in Moscow, in Montreal, in Canada, in Japan, in Europe. But none of the training we get prepares you for weightlessness and so I do the typical rookie mistakes, trying not to crash anywhere, and my colleagues are showing us how to fly.

And another thing we notice about our bodies, of course, is that you lose your sense of orientation, and initially, it's easy to get lost, but we will get used to it.

HUGO GIGUÈRE: Hello Mr. Saint-Jacques. Hugo Giguère, Canadian Press. When you stepped out of the capsule, you said you were in awe. What did you mean, more precisely, and was there something actually unexpected for which you were not at all prepared in all those years and months of training?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Well, perhaps the thing -- the first thing that completely floored me, in fact, was that in the Soyuz rocket ship, when I finally got into orbit, it was nighttime, and the first sunrise through the window; seeing the curb of the Earth, the first small light -- a blue line of the horizon; I was -- it was really an incredible emotion. And after, well, we -- the few hours that followed, we went right to the Station. Everything was again a little like the training. Then after that, once we arrived on board, another incredible moment was to meet other human beings living on board this space station, which has been orbiting the Earth for many decades.

I knew it in theory, but this -- recognizing this, it really impressed me.

MICHEL MARSOLAIS: Michel Marsolais, Radio-Canada. David Saint-Jacques, there has been a lot of talk about your training and your dreams. Now, the work begins; you have experiments to conduct.

Your program for the coming weeks, what is it, in terms of scientific work, on the International Space Station?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Well, we have a very busy program. As soon as we arrived, a Dragon cargo capsule from the SpaceX Company arrived, and we spent the day emptying – removing from it all the scientific equipment we need, and we already started to install all that. And we have quite a scientific program, especially in life sciences, but also a program a little -- Earth observation, that promises to be quite busy. It is very exciting for all of us to use the Station at its best for scientific research purposes for the benefit of everyone.

MARIE-ANNE LAPIERRE: Hello, Marie-Anne Lapierre, from TVA. I imagine that this is a little boy’s dream -- you had expectations. Did some things disappoint you? Are there other things which, on the contrary, are even more amazing than you had imagined? You answered us a little with the sunrise, but nevertheless, perhaps in the day-to-day, in the things that you have to do?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Well, it’s a strange sensation. With the training, it’s like everything was a little familiar, what I see, but familiar -- the operations are familiar, but the sensations are completely new; the sensation of floating, the fact that objects, we can just leave them -- I can just drop my mike here and continue talking, then it goes nowhere. And we have to be careful because if I make it turn around, it will go on turning.

And perhaps what is the most extraordinary, when we are busy doing our work, we just think about our procedures and we float by the window, and we see the Earth that is there; it’s really dazzling. We have all seen images of the Earth from space thousands of times, but to see it there, in front of me, this beautiful, graceful blue marble, which turns slowly in the emptiness of space, it’s really moving.

ANNIE GUILLEMETTE: Hello, Mr. Saint-Jacques, Anne Guillemette, Cogeco Nouvelles 98.5.

You have enormous responsibilities for the coming months. You have some toward your colleagues. You also have many scientific ones, a lot of research to carry out.

Is there one aspect that makes you more anxious than others? Well, we often think about the walk in space or things like that, but is there a kind of small challenge which you are really, really looking forward to, in the coming weeks?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Well, the main challenge we have, Anne and I -- the colleague with whom I travelled in the Soyuz rocket ship -- is that we have about three weeks to learn everything about the Station, while Alex and Serena -- who were here before us -- return to Earth. And then, we will be all alone on the Station with our colleague who will be in the Russian section.

So, this is the first challenge, to absorb as much as possible of their practical knowledge, not -- not everything is about procedures. Obviously, there is a whole part of life on board that is transmitted from one crew to the next, so, we are now in this phase. We ask a lot of questions and they themselves are extremely good leaders who can pass on the torch to us in the best way.

The first challenge, that’s it, it’s to take -- make the Station our environment so that we can take care of it alone, later on.


JACAUDREY CHARBONNEAU: Jacaudrey Charbonneau, Radio-Canada. I was wondering; once in space, is there -- does your perception change? What is it in your perception of life that changes, that will never again be like it was?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: I imagine that this, it’s a process that takes place over several weeks, even several months, but already, I look at the Earth and it’s obvious that we are all human beings of the same species, on the same planet, and that the fact that we are Canadian or American or Russian, it’s a -- it’s a cultural detail, but it’s not fundamental to who we are. And that, it’s obvious when we see it from a distance, our beautiful planet, this space vessel, after all, in which all human beings live.

AMANDA KLINE: Amanda Kline, with CTV Montreal. Can you describe your feeling or what was going through your mind the first time you saw Earth, emotionally and just what your perceptions were?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Yes. So, during the launch on the Soyuz. It was very familiar. We were all very, very busy doing our procedures in our spacecraft, that looks exactly like the simulator, and then we got to zero gravity, at engine cut-off, and then it was already strange but it was night time, and then there was our first sunrise on orbit, and that was quite an emotional moment, as I looked out the window and this little blue crescent started to get brighter and brighter, and I realized: Wow! This is actually the curve of the Earth.

So, that first sight, that first sunrise on orbit I will never forget. It was very moving. So, just so beautiful.

SEAN COSTELLO: Good morning, David, Sean Costello, SpaceFlight Insider. Our question relative to your physiological adjustment: Sleep cycles; starting with your initial first night, when you needed to make yourself, I guess, go to sleep -- very exciting -- and carrying on through the last week. How have you been able to balance these many sunrises, sunsets and the shifting day?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Yes; managing your sleep is very, very important for the crew members, here, because we often have to shift from one time zone to another, to accommodate for events on the ground.

So, we launched on the Soyuz and we were based on Moscow time. We arrived on board, suddenly we had to shift to a GMT -- London time. But, you know, with the excitement and the adrenaline, we weren’t very sleepy anyway.

So, we have a -- we use things like lighting inside. We make it dimmer and redder in the evening, and then brighter and bluer during the day, to -- for our bodies' ability to adjust to light, to help us.

And then -- yes, it is strange sometimes, when you feel like it's evening and you want to go to bed, and you have a last look outside and it's a bright daytime, or it's a sunrise. You have to kind of decouple the events outside from the events inside the Station, and we end up developing our own sense of time that relates to our life inside the Space Station.

ELIAS ABBOUD: Elias Abboud, with CBC. A lot of astronauts who have gone through what you're going through say that the first few days or weeks are the most difficult, getting their bodies adapted to zero gravity and space, because of all of the changes in the fluids, and so on. What have you found the most difficult in this first week or so?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: The most difficult I found was that initially I could feel like my brain kept on looking for which way is up and which way is down. And of course, because there is no gravity here, you're losing all of that information that normally your inner ear gives you.

And so, that's very disconcerting and disorienting, initially. And I notice, as the days go by that I seem to rely more and more on -- just on my vision, to decide which way is up, down, left, right. And now, already, after a week, I feel far less confused than my -- our sense of orientation.

So, that's maybe the biggest item. Another item was that -- maybe you can hear it from my voice. I'm a little bit congested, here, like most people are. Because gravity is not there to pull blood down to your legs your body has to adjust to that. So, initially you have kind of a big, red, puffy face, and over days it kind of becomes normal again. But I can still feel a sort of a sense of congestion, as if -- do you remember, as a child, hanging from the monkey bars in the park, how your head kind of puffs up? That's kind

of how you feel constantly, initially, and then it becomes normal. That's the other big thing that you realize. And, of course, floating around, which is a totally new sensation. It's a bit like being in water except you can't swim.

PHILIPPE MERCURE: Hello David. Philippe Mercure, from La Presse. Can you talk to us about the launch? The G forces, the emotions you feel when the rocket ship takes off? What was it like?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Yes; then very interesting. The day of the launch is a day that we had practiced a lot. It was very, very – everything was known territory. We had our spacesuit, which is our good, old friend that we know well. The procedures to reach the vessel, we know them well. Once on the rocket ship, I had already seen that, so it’s impressive but I was familiar with that. I sat inside, I was like in known territory. It totally resembles the simulator. The procedures, they’re the same. We practiced this dozens of time.

And then, at the launch, then, we suddenly feel that we are not in a simulator. Then, we feel the vibrations. We feel the acceleration. We are crushed into the seat. It accelerates, it accelerates. Every time that we -- that is, if we turn off part of the rocket ship and that we turn on another one, we are projected forward, pushed back into the seat again. And that’s how we feel the acceleration. We are very busy following the steps. It lasts about eight minutes and a half, until finally we are in orbit. Then, we are projected forward quite violently. We are strapped into our seats -- our belts are very tight, but inside the spacesuit, we are projected forward. We feel like we have braked. In fact, it’s the end of the acceleration. And then, we notice that the objects around us -- for example, my-- it’s the first thing I saw, it’s my -- pencil -- the stylus I use for my tablet, if I drop it, it floats in front of me. It doesn’t fall. It was the first thing -- object that I saw floating. Then, I have a small stuffed animal that my children gave me, which was attached to the end of a rope, which is like the indicator of microgravity that we use on board Soyuz; I also saw it float before my eyes.

And that was it, for me, the experience of a rocket launch, sort of the impression that enormous, very strong hands are propelling you upwards for minutes and minutes and minutes, and then they release you. And then, that was it, we were free-falling around the Earth.

(Unidentified male speaker): So, there has been a lot of talk, Monsieur Saint-Jacques, about the acclimation process, but I guess what I would want to know, maybe, is have you ever -- have you had a chance to be able to maybe take a step back; as you are out of this world, maybe get out of your head and think of what this could be -- this means for other people, like just in terms of the importance this has for the Canadian Space program, inspiring kids; like, like so many kids are inspired to go to space and be astronauts because they see people like you doing what you're doing.

So, do you ever have a chance to maybe -- you know, take a step back and think about what it means for you to be there, not just for yourself but also for Canada?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: Thanks for that question. Yes, it is a very humbling privilege to be here. Very, very few people have had that chance to see these views on behalf of humanity, and I take this very seriously, the responsibility to absorb this and retransmit it the best I can. Because it is something that as a child myself has really -- it really awed me, the first time I realized that -- you know, the Earth was this sphere floating in space, and that was reality, and that new perspective set me off on -- you know, a lifelong path to study sciences and explore. Because I think it is in our hearts this desire to always take another step back to get a bigger and bigger and bigger picture, starting from -- metaphorically, the day when we left the caves and then explore the plains and climb mountains, and then we went on the oceans and then flew in the air. And now, those steps back are taking us away from Earth herself.

And so, I think it is that quest at the heart of humanity to totally complete -- constantly explore further and constantly broaden our perspective, to really understand better the world around us. And that is perhaps, in my mind, the most important aspect, the legacy of space flights.

FEMALE HOST: David: Ivan Semeniuk, from the Globe and Mail, would like to know: Have you had any time to look at Earth? And if so, what have you seen, and when will you share?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: So, yes, I've had the chance to look at the Earth several times. I've had the chance to take photos of my home town and start to play -- dabble with Earth photography. The crew members who are here before me are very, very good at it -- Alex and Serena -- so, they are showing us all their tricks.

It is just a never -- never-ending sense of awe, looking at our blue planet. This thin blue line of atmosphere; that colour, that flash of blue is just unbelievable. And also, the beauty of sunrises and sunsets, and the sense of the size of the planet, to be able to see the whole of the Earth and get a feeling for the size of it, it is -- it is very touching. It is very humbling. And it makes you want to go back to Earth and help make it better.

RAYMOND FOURNIER: Raymond Fournier, Réseau Technoscience. As a scientist, what are your new experiments? What will they teach you that is new about microgravity and its effects on human beings?

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: So, we have a very full research program of a biomedical nature on the effects of microgravity on the body, and particularly on bones, bone marrow, the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, that is, the perception of the environment, even psychology -- we have psychological experiments.

There is also another very interesting related experiment -- which is supported by the Canadian Space Agency --it’s everything that relates to the study -- with the development of telemedicine techniques. It’s like -- as you can imagine; we are very careful, here. We try not to get sick and not hurt ourselves, but if there is an injury on board or an illness on board; well then, we took the precautions for getting medications, for getting help, for getting equipment -- and we can’t have everything.

So, we will possibly depend on the remote assistance from people on Earth, and the problem of bringing help to astronauts in orbit, it’s exactly the same problem as bringing medical assistance to people who live in very remote regions, in a country like ours, in Canada.

And me, before becoming an astronaut, I was a family doctor in a remote area, so I really understand the relevance of this aspect of space research, so combining the benefits of medical assistance to astronauts with the benefits of medical assistance to people who live in remote areas; so, there are experiments that are supported by the Canadian Space Agency that will help develop, therefore, the art, if you will, of telemedicine.

FEMALE HOST: Thank you very much David. This is all the time we have. See you soon.

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES: See you soon, everybody. Bye, bye!


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