LONGUEUIL, Que. – David Saint-Jacques returned to Earth on Monday after more than six months aboard the International Space Station.
The native of Saint-Lambert, Que., Set a record for the longest space flight of a Canadian in 204 days. The Canadian astronaut was accompanied by NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko aboard a Soyuz capsule that landed on Monday night.
The Saint-Jacques mission began ahead of schedule on December 3, when it was part of Soyuz's first manned mission after a rocket accident last October that forced a spacecraft to transport two astronauts to make an emergency landing.
The Saint-Lambert native, Que., Set a record for the longest space flight by a Canadian in 204 days.
The Soyuz spacecraft carrying the three astronauts left the space station without incidents from the orbiting laboratory at 7.25 p.m. EDT Monday.
The 49-year-old Saint-Jacques participated in a six-and-a-half-hour space walk in April and a "cosmic capture" of the SpaceX Dragon cargo using Canadarm2 – the first time a Canadian astronaut operated the robotic arm to do the deed . .
The engineer, astrophysicist and family doctor also oversaw scientific experiments and had numerous discussions with children across the country during his mission.
In his last days, Saint-Jacques said he was getting acquainted with the Soyuz spacecraft that was parked during his stay and that he should take them home from Monday afternoon.
He tweeted over the weekend that the ship was in good shape despite being parked for six months. "It will take a few hours, but let's get back to Earth – literally," Saint-Jacques told reporters last week.
"After crossing the Earth's atmosphere, the parachutes will open, we will land in Kazhakstan and be taken by the Russian team and taken to the airport, where we will return to Houston to meet with our families."
The married father of three small children said he was looking forward to seeing his family again. Saint-Jacques told reporters that he is aware of the physical challenges that lie ahead after six months of zero gravity, including blood circulation problems, muscle pain and an elongated spine that will return to normal.
This could mean trouble walking and moving for a while. The recovery of Saint-Jacques comes first in the minds of officials at the Canadian Space Agency.
"A major aspect for us here at the agency is to prepare for its return in the coming weeks – rehabilitation, physical reconditioning, adapting to life in 1G," said Gilles Leclerc, director of space exploration at the agency.
Saint-Jacques is expected to attend a news conference on Friday in Houston and return to Canada in mid-July to visit the agency south of Montreal.
As for the upcoming mission, Leclerc said that negotiations are underway for another member of the corps to serve aboard the International Space Station before 2024.