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Canadian astronaut launches on first trip to space station

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Monday, December 3, 2018, 5:06 PM - Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques is now on very his first adventure in space! Watch again as he lifts off on his journey, and tune in live to see his arrival at the International Space Station!

After over nine years of training, and anticipation, another member of Canada's astronaut core is finally in space.

David Saint-Jacques - engineer, astrophysicist and physician - was chosen as a Canadian Space Agency astronaut back in May of 2009, along with Jeremy Hansen. In just a few hours, Saint-Jacques, along with fellow members of the ISS Expedition 58 crew, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, will be arriving at the International Space Station.

The Soyuz MS-11 mission launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:31 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, carrying the trio into space for a 4-orbit 'speed route' to the ISS. Before 2013, a trip to the space station took around two days to complete, as the rocket lofts the spacecraft into orbit, and the crew slowly matches speed and altitude with the station over 34 orbits. Since March 2013, with the Soyuz TMA-08M launch, a new flight trajectory developed by Roscosmos allows that same trip to takes just over six hours.

Watch the Expedition 58 crew bring their Soyuz spacecraft in to dock with the International Space Station.

With Saint-Jacques, McClain and Kononenko now safely arrived and on board the station, they will remain there until June 2019.


This flight to space is actually a bit earlier than Saint-Jacques, McClain and Kononenko were expecting!

Originally, Soyuz MS-11 was supposed to launch to the ISS over two weeks from now, on December 20. With the failure of the October 11 Soyuz MS-10 launch, however, which was supposed to carry American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin on their mission to space, the timetable for subsequent launches were moved up.

Watch Below: Rocket launch failure forces emergency landing

Fortunately, Hague and Ovchinin made it safely back to the ground after their Soyuz rocket broke up, but their absence on the station caused an unfortunate situation, since the current crew - Gerst, Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev - were originally due to leave the ISS on December 13.

In the wake of the accident, if the three left on schedule, however, the station would be unoccupied for at least a week, and quite possibly much longer, if the accident investigation dragged out.

Given that the station has been continuously inhabited since November 2, 2000, and requires crew on board for maintenance and upkeep, not to mention the numerous science experiments that might be compromised if left unattended, NASA and Roscosmos wanted, very much, to avoid abandoning the station.

To prevent this from happening, those currently on the station were, at first, going to remain there until a new crew could be launched to replace them. If the investigation into the MS-10 accident had gone on long enough, the three may have stayed past the date when the certification of their Soyuz capsule was set to expire, which was sometime around December 25. This would have prompted contingency plans, such as launching an empty Soyuz capsule up to the station, for them to use for their eventual return to Earth.

With the cause of the MS-10 accident discovered quickly, however, Roscosmos was able to move forward with their return to flight, with a slight reshuffling of the launch and landing schedule.

Once Saint-Jacques, McClain and Kononenko settled in to their new roles, and command of the station can be passed from Gerst to Kononenko, Gerst, Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev will return to Earth on December 20.

Sources: NASA | CBC | With files from The Weather Network


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