Pop Goes The News — The Canadian Space Agency will announce Monday morning that another Canadian is heading to the International Space Station (ISS).
David Saint-Jacques will be the seventh Canadian astronaut — as well as the eighth Canadian and fourth Québécois — at the ISS and the first since Col. Chris Hadfield left on May 13, 2013.
Navdeep Bains, the federal minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and CSA president Sylvain Laporte are scheduled to reveal details at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.
Saint-Jacques, 46, will blast off in November 2018.
NASA currently has five trips to the ISS scheduled between June 2016 and May 2017 with astronauts from the U.S., Russia, Japan, France, and Italy.
Since 2000, 222 people from 18 countries have visited the ISS. Prior to Hadfield, Canadian astronauts Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean, Julie Payette, Robert Thirsk and Dafydd Williams were there. Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté visited the ISS as a space tourist in 2009.
One of two active astronauts in the Canadian space program, Saint-Jacques was selected by the CSA in 2009. (The other, Ontario’s Jeremy Hansen, will likely go to the ISS in 2024.)
A licensed pilot and avid sailor, he is married and the father of two.
Last summer, Saint-Jacques told Le Journal de Quebec it was a childhood fantasy to be an astronaut.
“I never really thought it was possible,” he said. “I’m like an athlete who dreams of going to the Olympics. You can dream if you want, but it is not you who decides.”
He spoke to Macleans last year about the ISS.
“The International Space Station was built in orbit. Each piece hurtled into space at eight kilometres per second. From an engineering point of view, it’s madness. Unbelievable,” he gushed.
“It’s also a feat of policy—Russia, the U.S., Germany and Japan working together. Do you realize what that means? These countries were sending nukes to each other a generation ago. Space does that. It gives us that amazing big picture.”
Although born in Quebec City, Saint-Jacques was raised in the Montreal suburb of Saint-Lambert. After getting an engineering degree from École polytechnique de Montréal, he earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the UK’s Cambridge University.
Saint-Jacques returned home to study medicine and earned his M.D. from the Université Laval in Quebec City before doing his residency in family medicine at McGill University. He became co-chief of medicine at Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq, an isolated community in northern Quebec.
Saint-Jacques’ education and work also took him to France, Hungary, Lebanon and Guatemala.
“I never believed I could be an astronaut,” he told BT Montreal in 2014. “I thought it’s something so abstract. I remember deciding I’m going to model my life, myself, on what I thought astronauts were because that looks like a good way to become a good person.”
Asked what he is looking forward to most when he reaches the ISS, Saint-Jacques replied: “Looking back and seeing the world. Seeing Earth. Floating in space. Seeing the spacecraft that we’re on. Because we’re all on one little spacecraft … and we’re all in this adventure together.”
Based in Houston since 2009, Saint-Jacques was in Montreal in early May to speak at a gala for the 40th anniversary of the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University.
He told Macleans last year that his primary mission as an astronaut is to inspire people — especially the next generation.
“Everybody has a dream, but it’s often very vague. We owe it to ourselves to identify it and not be afraid of it. Even if it’s crazy and unachievable,” he said. “The importance of finding your dreams doesn’t lie in the fact that it gives you a target that you have to achieve, but it gives you a direction. When you set it into motion, things happen.
“That’s the message I want to give my kids. If your dream isn’t scary, it’s not big enough. Sure, use your head, get a job. But don’t lose sight of wonder.”
BELOW: Get to know Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques