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LIVE – David Saint-Jacques answers Nova Scotia students' questions from space


Uploaded on March 4, 2019


LIVE – David Saint-Jacques answers Nova Scotia students' questions from space

2019-03-04 - Live from the International Space Station, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques answers questions from high school and Dalhousie University students in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NASA)


Alice Aiken: I'm going to ask those who are filing in to file in quietly and thank you very much for joining us.

So, I guess I'm going to start this by saying good morning, fellow Earthlings. My name is Dr. Alice Aiken, and I'm the vice president of Research and Development here, at Dalhousie, and it's great to see so many of you here today.

Now, I don't know about all of you but sometimes easing into a Monday morning can be a little bit tough, but this week was not so. It is not every Monday that we get to be part of a live chat via video link with an astronaut at the International Space Station. I'm assuming that's probably true for most of you as well.

So, I would like to start by just letting a few -- just a couple of logistical things. Apparently, Dal is going to start shutting down -- again, I'm just going to ask people to be quiet as they get seated - thanks.

Dalhousie is going to be closing down at 11 o'clock, so some of you might be getting texts. This will continue. This event will continue until 11:45. There's no way we're shutting this down early, so --

So, listen; I would like to say first and foremost: Thank you very much to the Canadian Space Agency for partnering with us, to host Ask An Astronaut Today, here at the beautiful Rebecca Cohn auditorium. Very shortly we will be beaming up to the International Space Station via interactive live link, where astronaut David Saint-Jacques will answer your questions in real time.

Just a few months ago some of the leading minds in space exploration took part in an intellectual jousting match with ocean experts on this stage, as part of the Great Debate, one of signature 200th anniversary events.

Dalhousie is a fitting place for events like this. We are an institution where you can explore and seek answers to some of the Universe's most pressing and perplexing questions, and set your course for greatness in science, technology and so many other fields.

So, for example, former NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan, who was the first American woman to walk in space, got her start right here, at Dalhousie, as a PhD student. She went on to achieve amazing things, including launching the Hubble telescope and serving as administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration under former US president Barack Obama. And our astrophysicists are now using advanced telescopes to peer more than 12 billion light years back in time, to observe the creation of a mega galaxy at the edge of our observable universe. We have always been and will always be a community of learners, doers and dreamers.

I would like to extend a special welcome this morning to the students who have been able to join us, and I know with the school closures we are expecting many more of you, but welcome.

And I now have the great privilege of introducing Josh Kutryk, who beat out nearly 3,800 applicants in 2017, to join the Canadian Space Agency as one of Canada's two new astronauts. With a background as an experimental test pilot on high-performance jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force, and as a fighter pilot deployed in Afghanistan and Libya, Josh is now in training to play a leading role in the next phase of the Canadian space exploration.

He holds degrees in mechanical engineering, space studies, flight test engineering and defence studies, and is the recipient of the Liethen-Tittle Award for top test pilot graduate and a distinguished graduate of the United-States Air Force Test Pilot School.

So, let's have a big round of applause for Josh.

--- (general applause)

Joshua Kutryk: Can everyone hear that okay? The mic is working?

So, thanks for being here, good morning, and like I -- I always like to say thank you for coming, especially relevant today, with the weather outside, I guess. Unfortunately Mother Nature just doesn’t always go your way, but we've got a good crowd and we've got a good event coming up here in about seven minutes, and I certainly look forward to --

So, I am Canadian Space Agency Josh Kutryck. I'm going to talk to you for just a few minutes about some of the stuff that I do. If we go to the next one.

This is a picture of -- maybe one of -- a typical day for me down in Houston. I live and work at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and I train. So, people ask me what my day-to-day is like and the answer is really that I just study a lot. I kind of studied my entire life and that's still what I do. You have to enjoy studying

So you a picture of me here, during a microgravity training flight, and you see some of my colleagues, two more Canadian Space Agency astronauts, Jenni Sidey-Gibbons, Jeremy Henson. You see one of our flight doctors as well, one of our flight surgeons. And of course, who is not in this picture is the fourth Canadian astronaut currently working, David Saint-Jacques, good friend of mine. He's not on the planet right now, as everyone in this room will know. He's in outer space and we're going to talk to him in about five minutes.

So, I keep looking at my watch. It's kind of actually a complicated thing. If you think about the geometry of the Space Station and what it is doing, it is a technical feat, in and of itself, that we are able to connect to it in live time, through a whole bunch of satellites, get that signal down to the Mission Control Center in Houston, and then get it from there all the way up to snowy Halifax this morning, so that we can talk to David. But if all goes well - and it usually does - we will be able to talk to him.

Let's go to the next one.

This is a picture on another standard day. We are using, in this picture, a giant pool. It's one of the biggest pools in the world. It's at NASA. We call it the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and I spend a lot of time in there, sometimes seven hours a day underwater, working in a microgravity environment. We are using neutral buoyancy to simulate microgravity. So, very interesting, very technical work, and again, it comes back to the fact that you really do have to enjoy learning and enjoy studying a lot.

So, I spend a lot of time doing stuff like this. The last week, though, not such much. Last week I have been in Canada, and we came up to Canada to talk about space, to talk to David at events like this, but really, to talk about space, and it's a pretty timely morning right now, because we have had a very, very exciting week for the Canadian space sector. People in this room probably follow space quite a bit but the last week was tremendous for us. Just a couple of days ago we had the first launch and docking ever in history of a commercial human-rated space vehicle to the International Space Station. This is going to change things a lot. I got up at 3:00 in the morning to watch that, and I got up at 3:00 in the morning to watch that launch because as I like to say, things like that do for me what I think space exploration does for all of us, and has always done for all of us. They inspire us and they -- fundamentally, they take things that we always assumed to be impossible and just through an event like that all of a sudden it is possible. So, I like to say we make the impossible happen and make the impossible possible.

Of course, before that, also last week our Prime Minister came to visit us in Montreal, and he announced that Canada would partner on the Gateway Project. Gateway is probably the most bold, daring, exciting exploration mission ever undertaken by humans in the entire history of our species. And we announced last week that Canada is going to be a prime partner on that. That means Canada is going back to the Moon with NASA and this is stuff that is going to be happening over the next 10 years. So, it's an extremely, extremely exciting period of time. It's really -- you know, that announcement for me - as I think it is for all of Canada - is a vision for our aerospace sector. It's a challenge and it represents a tremendous opportunity.

So, if there are people in this room who are interested in working in space in the future, as an engineer, as a doctor, as a scientist, even as an astronaut, the future is very, very bright. Things are changing extremely quickly.

Next slide.

So, let's go back to David. David is in space. About three months ago -- this is actually his three-month anniversary. We travelled out to Baikonur -- this is the rocket that he launched in. I just love this picture because it shows the Canadian flag so boldly flying. People, I think, still don't fully appreciate just how far out there Canada is. We have an extremely proud history in outer space and we're going to have an extremely bright one to come.

We have always been a very important player on the world space stage. We have always partnered with the major spacefaring nations of the world. And you can see here; there's not many countries involved with sending humans to outer space, literally off of this planet. Canada is one of them and I think that that's just so special. It's so special to look at that picture and see the flag kind of symbolically marking where we live in the world, when it comes to outer space.

So, we've got about two minutes to go. I'm going to run a video. This is some of the footage from David's launch three months ago. It just shows him stepping up to the rocket, the final suit-up, strap-in and then eventually the rocket blasting off.

I was fortunate enough to be there. This is a very, very special event to attend. It -- when you attend it in person it shows you first-hand just how special space flight is and just how difficult it still is, and how much of a rare thing it is.

That's a Soyuz rocket blasting off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. When David rode this rocket he accelerated 50 kilometres an hour, so that's like accelerating up to driving speed in your car every single second for nine minutes - think about that.

Okay, so just listen to different things and we're going to go ahead with the voice check here, in a minute. Don Pettit(ph), sitting Capcom. It's nice to see you, Don.

Just one sec.

Houston and/or Station, Halifax is ready for the event. Is anyone hearing this? It will work. Just give us a minute. Short delay -- okay. So, what do you do when you're on stage and they say short delay? (laughter)

This is -- I love talking about space. So, this is not the International Space Station. This is the Mission Control Center in Houston. That's Astronaut Don Pettit, on the Capcom Console. So, that's something that I sometimes do down there. He's the individual who talks to the astronauts in outer space, and behind him you can see a small section of it, so --

--- (introduction conversation between Houston and the International Space Station)

--- (general applause)

David Saint-Jacques: Houston, this is Station. I'm ready.

Unidentified female speaker: Canadian Space Agency, this is Mission Control Houston. Please call Station for a voice check.

Joshua Kutryck: Station, good -- Josh Kutryck, from the Canadian Space Agency calling from Halifax, Nova Scotia. How do you read?

David Saint-Jacques: Hey, Josh. This is David. I've got you loud and clear. How me?

Joshua Kutryck: Hi, David. It's great to talk to you. I have you loud and clear as well. Calling you from Dalhousie this morning, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And I wish you could see it down here. It's a March blizzard. You can see about six feet in front of you walking down the sidewalk. But we will managed to fill a theatre of young people who are very keen to talk to you, so I won't waste any more --

--- (general applause)

Joshua Kutryck: And we will get right to it.

Shanna Francis: Hi. I'm Shanna(ph) Francis and my question is: Why was it important for you to include Indigenous people and culture on your journey to space?

David Saint-Jacques: Well, first because I spent some of my professional career working with Indigenous people. I was a family physician up in the Northern Québec, working with the Inuit communities. So they are part of who I am, and just as I come here, on this International Space Station, bringing a piece of everywhere I've been, I wanted to bring a part of -- that part of my culture, which is a little bit of Indigenous culture.

But beyond that, I think also, one thing that most Indigenous cultures have in common with our culture here, in space, is a great respect for Mother Earth and a kind of a way to look at Earth as something that -- not as a physician but as something that we should take care of. So, I think it matches well with our culture up here.

Shanna Francis: Thank you. (Aboriginal language spoken).

--- (general applause)

Unidentified female speaker: What is the most challenging thing about being as astronaut?

David Saint-Jacques: Well, you know, everything is challenging. You can ask Josh. He's going through the training now, and I felt at that time of training that everything was pushing me to my limits.

But maybe the most challenging thing itself is managing your own time and managing your own energy, because you cannot do everything perfectly. You have to decide where to put your focus. And even more difficult is while trying to do that keeping your balance. I always found that is the most important and maybe the most difficult thing in life is to keep your balance, because you can only be at your best if you are in balance. If your professional life is good, your personal life; if your friends, your family, your health, if everything is in order, then that is how you will be at your best; but it's not easy to achieve.

Unidentified female speaker: I've got another question. At any point have you second-guessed your decision to go to space?

David Saint-Jacques: You know, I might seem very self-confident but actually I'm full of doubt all the time, because everything we do here is so difficult and so dangerous. I always feel like: Aw! I need to concentrate more. I always feel like: Aw! I need to do better. I need to push myself even more.

So, yes, I regularly feel full of doubt and -- but I know that it is worth the effort and I know that it's worth it, so I always decide -- every day I decide to continue.

Unidentified female speaker 2: I'm asking this question for Deborah Toney(ph) from Annapolis First Nations: What has surprised you most on your journey so far?

David Saint-Jacques: You know, what impresses me, on the first day and still every day, even after three months here, is how beautiful and incredible our planet Earth is. We put a lot of energy to come to space but the first thing you want to do is look back at beautiful Mother Earth, and every time I open the shutter on our bay windows up on the Space Station and I look at Earth, I'm amazed how incredibly beautiful -- but also strong She is, but at the same time, of course, we can damage Earth, so it makes me realize that we have to be very careful, very responsible, to take care of our environment.

But the beauty and the grace of our planet is what surprises me every day.

Unidentified male speaker: Hey. My name is Jaimie(ph) and I'm from Repentigny, and my question is: What scientific projects are you working on during your mission?

David Saint-Jacques: So, we do a lot of experiments, here. The Space Station is an orbiting laboratory. Thousands of experiments have been done since the beginning of the program; maybe a couple of hundreds are going on right now.

Most of the them are to do with medicine and biomedical research, because going to space is bad for the human body and it is bad in ways that resemble disease that anybody can have on the ground, except here, it develops very quickly.

So, if you want, with the excuse of helping astronauts we can help medicine in a very efficient way, by working here. So, we're perfect Guinea pigs for medical research.

Unidentified male speaker: Thank you.

Unidentified female speaker 3: my question is: What do you miss the most about Earth, other than friends and family?

David Saint-Jacques: So, of course, friends and family is what I miss most, but I also miss being able to go outside whenever I want. Here, I am always in the Station. To go outside is a big deal. To do a space walk in your space suit is very complicated to organize. We can't do that whenever we want.

So, going outside and enjoying the breeze, fresh air, the wind in my face, the sun on my skin. That is what I miss, and also the ocean; diving and swimming in the ocean is something that I miss very much.

Unidentified male speaker 2: Hi. My question is: can you see a planet?

David Saint-Jacques: So, from here, of course, we can see the Earth. We can see the Sun also. It looks similar to -- from Earth, except the sky is black even when the Sun is up - that's a bit strange. But real planets; we can see the same ones that you can see from Earth. We can see easily Venus and Saturn and Mars. They look a little bit -- they look similar -- you know, little disks of a certain colour, but they are different here, also, because they don't twinkle. Stars don't twinkle here, and neither do planets.

But one of the most beautiful things we can see, I find, in the sky, is the moon, because we do around the Earth so fast, 16 times a day; we also get 16 times the Moon rise and the moonsets every day, and I always find it just gorgeous to see the moonrise over the beautiful blue horizon of the Earth, and then the moonsets about 45 minutes later. That's gorgeous.

Unidentified male speaker 2: Thank you.

Pratisha: Hi. My name is Pratisha(ph). I'm from Dalhousie. My question: What do you think Canada's role in space exploration should be, going forward?

David Saint-Jacques: Good question for the future. You probably heard that last week there was a big announcement that Canada is going to join the concert of international partners who built the Space Station to take the next step and to build -- like Space Station around the Moon, to learn to live even further away from the Earth, and from there it's like a stepping stone to then go to Mars one day.

So, I think Canada's role in space exploration is a very good one. We should be very, very proud of our accomplishments with Canadarm and Canadarm2. We have made huge contributions to the advancement of knowledge and exploration, and I think our country, that's the kind of country I want to give to my children, a proud and smart country that is at the forefront of exploration, and space exploration is full of future for us. It's where we're going to learn a lot about ourselves, about our planet, and we're going to discover lots of new scientific discoveries, and also, we're going -- space is where we're going to be able to protect our planet from; take better care of Mother Earth.

Barnavus Lee: Hi. My name is Barnavus Lee and my question is: What time zone do you live in? And do you experience jet lag once in the ISS?

David Saint-Jacques: Yes, we do experience jet lag. So, the time zone we live in was an arbitrary choice. We decided to live on what we call GMT. That's the time in London, actually, London, England. So, somewhere halfway, almost, between Houston and Moscow - the two big control centres - this is the time we live in. So, right now; I look at my watch, it's 3 p.m. 3 hours and 10 minutes p.m. - so that's the time we're in.

So jet lag, yes, we do. Because when we launch from Kazakhstan, on a Soyuz rocket, it is three hours later. So, when we arrive at the Station we experience three hours of jet lag. We also jet lag if we have to wake up very early for a special mission, for example, or to come back to Earth, we normally have to change our body clock. So, that feels very much like jet lag.

Unidentified female speaker 4: Do you have a favourite piece of music to listen to in space?

David Saint-Jacques: Well, I like a lot of types of music, but the music I like most is the music that my friends recommend to me. So, here, I am able to receive music from my friends and my brothers, and so that's what I listen to. I listen to suggestions of music from my friends. I think it's a beautiful way to share emotions, is to share music.

Unidentified male speaker 3: What do the Sun, the Moon and the starts look like? Is it different from looking from the Earth?

David Saint-Jacques: Yes, they are a little bit different. So, the biggest difference; when you look at the Sun here, from space, it looks the same. It's a very bright yellow light. But the sky around the Sun is not blue, in space, it's black. Even when the Sun is out the sky is black. That's a very big difference.

And then the stars, they look similar. They're in the same place. But they're like frozen, They don't twinkle at all. Because the twinkling that you see on the Earth is from the atmosphere of the Earth making the stars a little bit fuzzy. Here, there's no atmosphere between us and the stars, so they look like crystal-clear, almost frozen dots.

And the Moon looks very similar to what you see from the ground, from the Earth.

Unidentified male speaker 4: Hello, David. I'm from (inaudible). I'm in Grade 4. I have a question: What are your thoughts on commercial space trips?

David Saint-Jacques: Ah, yes; good question - a question for the future.

Actually, you may have read in the news but yesterday was the first time a commercial spacecraft, made to carry astronauts, came to the International Space Station. It's called the Dragon, from the company SpaceX. There was nobody on board, just a mannequin, to test it, but soon they will bring people to the Space Station.

I think it's a great development. It's a bit like -- you know, almost 100 -- more than 100 years ago, when they invented aviation, it was very risky and only governments could fly in the air. And then eventually, as we got better technology, it became very, very common. And now a lot of people can fly airplanes and we see it as very safe. I think one day, thanks to commercial entities, space will become more affordable and more common.

Sarah Prosper: Hello, David. My name is Sarah Prosper, from Eskasoni First Nation. I'm going to be asking you a question on behalf of Lauren Sylliboy, from Eskasoni. She asks: Does space have a smell? And is it hot or cold in space?

David Saint-Jacques: So, yes, space has a smell, and we can smell that when we -- when a new vehicle docks at the Space Station, it docks to a compartment that is empty, like a hatchway, like between two doors at your home, in the winter; right? And so that part of the Space Station was in space before, and when one of the vehicles dock we can open that inside door and after filling it up with air - so we don't -- you know, put our face in a vacuum, we can smell the smell of space.

Or when people go on space walks and they come back in, they bring that smell with them, and it smells a little bit like -- not like something burnt but a bit like a hot metal. It smells like hot metal, like the smell of a new toaster the first time you use it; something like that. It's a strange smell, but it's very distinctive.

And hot or cold? Well, the answer is it depends. It's all depending on whether you are in the sun or in the shadow. If you're in the sun it's terribly hot, hundreds of degrees. If you're in the shadow, it's terribly cold, minus several hundreds of degrees.

For example, if you look at the Moon; the dark side is about -200 and the bright side +200. Same thing for the Space Station; there's a side that's on the Sun and a side that's in the shadow; there's a bit difference of temperature. So, you can imagine; that's a big challenge for the people that build a spacecraft, to make sure it doesn’t deform and warp under these temperature differences.

Alice Aiken: Hi, Doctor Saint-Jacques. I'm Alice Aiken. I'm the vice president, Research and Innovation, here, at Dalhousie.

And I'm asking a question on behalf of young Larissa Michael(ph), from Wayoba(ph), who wasn’t able to make it here today. She wanted to know: In all your training to become an astronaut what have you found to be the most useful, now that you're there?

David Saint-Jacques: Hm. The most -- I mean, it's all come to use, you know? I have -- I was blessed with a very varied education and it has all become useful to me. I think the most useful is these advices that you get from your parents in your -- you know, your primary school teachers, about being responsible, about being a person who can be trusted. These are the most important things for anybody, you know, but for astronauts it's important, to be a trustworthy person. You can make mistakes. Everybody can make mistakes, but the important thing is to be reliable.

So, maybe that's the most important thing that I found is every time in my life someone has helped me become a responsible person, every one of these people has helped me.

Olivier Lefebvre: Hello, Mr. Saint-Jacques. Olivier Lefebvre. I am a journalist at Radio-Canada Television. I am going to ask you a question in French: I would like to know – Hello – how can the announcement of Canada’s participation in the Lunar Gateway Project give the young people who are here today the hope that they can work in space and also provide them with opportunities to do so?

David Saint-Jacques: What is extraordinary about space programs is that they are very, very long-term programs. The decisions we made to get involved in the Gateway and then to go on with space exploration are decisions for our children. The engineers who will work on missions to the moon and, after that, perhaps missions to Mars, the astronauts who will be – all those people are the children of today, right? Me, it won’t be – me. I’m too old. I might be a professor for astronauts in those days, but these are dreams for our children. This is what is extraordinary.

So, there are lots of opportunities. Me, I always tell young people: You have to dream big. You have to have crazy dreams. It’s not important if the dream seems impossible. What is important is to have a dream because a dream is like a destination. It’s – it gives you a direction to go in. It’s not important if we don’t reach our destination, but what is important is to have a direction in which to go, in this way, we are aware every day, it helps us make decisions in life. Then, if life changes and we land somewhere else, it’s not important. But, big dreams like this, to take part in space exploration, I think that this is the ability to motivate young people, because it makes everyone dream.

Joshua Kutryck: Okay, David. It's Josh again, and thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule. On behalf of everyone here at -- down in Nova Scotia this morning, I would like to say sincerely: Thank you. We really enjoyed that, and I think that's about it on our little communications window with you.

David Saint-Jacques: Thank you very much, Josh. Thanks, everybody. Have a good time on Earth. Take good care of Earth. I will take good pictures of you, and I'm looking forward to being back on Mother Earth one day.

Joshua Kutryck: Thanks, David.

--- (general applause)

Alice Aiken: Okay. That was really cool, wasn’t it? Come on! That was great!

--- (General applause)

Alice Aiken: Thank you, Josh. So, I want to thank all of you for being here on this snowy day. I think we can agree that was a pretty special Monday morning. And what I would like to do is invite all of our friends who asked questions to come back up on stage and get a photo with Josh. Thank you everybody.

Joshua Kutryck: Thank you so much.

Alice Aiken: Thank you. That was really nice.

Joshua Kutryck: I'm really glad this worked out.

Alice Aiken: Yes. I think I was supposed to thank you more than that but I'm still excited.

Joshua Kutryck: You did not need to thank me more than I did.

Alice Aiken: (laughter)

Joshua Kutryck: I should thank you for hosting.

Alice Aiken: So --

--- (general applause) 


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