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Toronto, Jul 20 (Canadian-Media): Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques was in Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, Ontario on 19th July to talk to a full house about his journey to becoming an astronaut, his intensive training and his upcoming mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
While welcoming the audience Dr Maurice Bitran, CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of Ontario Science Centre said "mission of Ontario Science Centre is to inspire passion for the human adventure of discovery and I cannot think of more compelling human adventure of discovery than space exploration over the last 100 years or so."
He then said that next year it will be 50 years since humans landed on the moon in 1969 and added this event would be celebrated In Ontario Science Centre next year.
He also said that next year Ontario Science Centre which opened its door in 1969 would also complete 50 years and this event would be celebrated
Landing on the moon in 1969 was an incredible time, continued Bitran. It was live on TV around the world. Space exploration and has continued to have a strong influence in our lives in both profound and practical ways, giving us new understanding of solar system.
"The work force of man's space exploration research is International Space Station," said Bitran.
It is a huge lab or like a foot ball field 400 kilometeres and thrice as big as the auditorium where the presentation was being held.
Prior to becoming an astronaut, Saint-Jacques had graduated as an physics engineer, got a doctorate in astrophysics and finally studied medicine and worked as a family physician.
He said the reason for his studying Physics and astrophysics was to understand the universe and where do we come from. Then he said that he took up medicine in order to better understand the human body.
His motivation to become how an astronaut was not his first choice of study. He had been dreaming about space ever since a small child as seen in the following pictures.
It was only in 2009, continued Saint-Jacques, that he was selected by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and moved to Houston, United States to be one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class, out of which 10 had retired and only 4 remain presently as active members.
The creditable thing about this is that Saint-Jacques has a family with three kids.
Saint-Jacques supports the space program through his work with NASA and the CSA, and shares his passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with young Canadians.
After completion of basic training, he was first assigned to the Robotics Branch of the NASA Astronaut Office, then successively acted as Support Astronaut for International Space Station (ISS) Expedition.
Since graduation, he has been continuously training to maintain his skills as well as taking part in various geology, glaciology and other scientific expeditions.
The astronauts are trained to fly high and meet challenging situations. During the training the astronauts are attired in the manner shown in the picture below.
They have to be alert to face any situation that arises suddenly in space. There should be no scope of making any errors.
During his presentation he asked the audience, many of whom were school children, that if a wet cloth is squeezed where would the water fall. He actually showed the audience a wet towel being squeezed.
Some school children, applying the force of gravity replied that water will fall down. Some replied it would go up, others said sideways
But the astronaut asked the audience to see the phenomenon clearly and said the water did not fall anywhere. The water sticks to the hand of the person squeezing it.
He also told the audience about the atmosphere of microgravity prevailing in the space leading to bone loss and weakening of the muscles. and added once the astronauts are back from the space station they have to complete post-flight reconditioning to build bone and mass and gain muscle strength,
He then demonstrated to the audience through pictures that it takes only 8 minutes for the space shuttle to get to space station from the time it leaves the earth.
The reason behind is, explained the astronaut, is the sooner it reaches the space shuttle the better chances of its success; otherwise the force of gravity of the earth can cause the shuttle to go sideways and then fall down.
Since there is no pressure of micragravity pulling anything down, the speed of the rocket is adjusted in such a way that the rocket soon leaves the zone of gravity to the reach the environment of microgravity. Once the space shuttle reaches the space station it lands there.
Saint-Jacques told the audience that the landing station is three times the size of the auditorium in which they were seated. And once the astronauts open the doors of the space craft, they see a community of people there who had come there earlier and were learning to live there.
The three astronauts who were in the space shuttle which left for the space were completely equipped as shown below.
He told the audience that he would be leaving for the space station in December of 2018 and that he would remain there for six and a half months aboard the ISS where he will do science experiments, operate Canadarm2 and test new technologies.
When he was a young child, continued Saint-Jacques he had seen one of the photos of the Earth from the Moon.
This broadened his horizon and he began to view the universe in a totally different way and began to dream of seeing our home from space for himself.
Besides spending time taking pictures of the Earth, he said he will be sharing his experience with Canadians.
From space he will also engage with young people to make them part of the mission and inspire them to be interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
During his six months on board in the ISS, Saint-Jacques said that he would see 5,000 sunrises and sunsets.
Dr Bitran, in his concluding remarks, said that Ontario Science Centre has a strong collaboration with Canadian Space Agency and added after Saint-Jacques' return from space, Ontario Science Centre would eagerly look forward to listen to his experiences in space.
During the media scrum I had a chance to ask Saint-Jacques a few questions.
The first one question I asked him was what motivated him to become an astronaut since it was not his first choice.
To this he replied that ever since his childhood he was fascinated to explore space but did not think it would be possible for him. Then studying physics and astrophysics he developed sufficient knowledge of mass and how things move. His study of medicine further equipped him with knowledge of human bodies and how they worked.
The second question I asked was which scientific experiments would he be performing in the space and that if training was being imparted on this.
To this he replied that since he had studied medicine and had worked as a family physician he had been receiving training to perform medical science experiments in space to improve the lives of people while they are in space. His medical studies had given him additional advantage.
The third and the final question I asked him what mission does he wishes to accomplish during his expedition to space.
Saint-Jacques said that the main mission that he wishes to accomplish in the space was to improve the life of people on space. He had completed his family medicine residency at McGill University in Montreal, Canada (2007), where his training focused on first-line, isolated medical practice. His work as a medical doctor and the Co-chief of Medicine at Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq, Nunavik, an Inuit community on Hudson Bay was mostly in isolated medical practice.
His aim was to use this experience of practicing isolated medicine in space where the human bodies are very fragile and are easily susceptible to diseases. He had also been receiving training in this for last six months. He said that he would be using these experiences and training in space to accomplish his mission of improving life of people in space.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)