LIVE – David Saint-Jacques answers questions from social media community from space

LIVE – David Saint-Jacques answers questions from social media community from space


Hello everyone and welcome to this special broadcast coming to you directly from the Canadian Space Agency in Saint-Hubert. My name is Pierre-Yves Lord, television and radio host and future space tourist. It is a great pleasure to be here. Thank you to the Canadian Space Agency for holding this type of event to allow us to enter into contact with David and be able to quench our thirst to learn a little more about space exploration. So, in a few moments, we’ll have an opportunity to speak with David Saint-Jacques who is in orbit on board the International Space Station. And Samantha is also with us to provide the English portion of the webcast. Thank you. Hi, everyone. I’m Samantha Yammine, a neuroscientist based out of the University of Toronto. I also love to communicate and talk about science online, where I go by the nickname @science.sam. I’d like to welcome everyone. I can’t believe that, today, I get to add to my resume that I’ve done a live stream with an astronaut who is in space. We are so excited. Thank you so much for being here. Whether it’s in person or online, we are so excited to be here with you today and to get to speak with David. Yes. Well, we’re all enthusiastic. We’re all extremely curious, all extremely emotional about being able to live this experience. The questions that will be posed to David today come from social media and celebrities from various walks of life who are assembled here. So, I have the pleasure of welcoming a few of them. First, I would like to introduce you to Fred Bastien, who is a YouTuber, host and columnist. Welcome aboard. Kim Boutin, a speed skater who has won three Olympic medals. Hello. We have Martin Carli from the Génial show, therefore a scientist, someone who loves science, who may have a quiz question for David, who knows? And Mikaël Kingsbury, a two-time Olympian medallist and quadruple world champion in freestyle skiing. So, thank you very much for joining us. You know, well, David Saint-Jacques comes from the most beautiful city there is, namely, Quebec City. In any event, he was born in Quebec City, and has always nurtured a deep-seated desire for exploration and a desire to explore the world around him. When he was young, David saw a photo of the Earth taken from the Moon, and this was really a trigger for him. From that moment on, he told himself that, wow, it’s possible to go into space. And this remained in his life as a backdrop that motivated him to stay in shape, go to university, study languages and travel. So, he was first an engineer, an astrophysicist, family physician, and he was recruited by the Canadian Space Agency in 2009, and that’s when extensive training to acquire knowledge that is necessary to go and experience these types of missions. Thus, a major announcement was made in 2016. It was announced to David Saint-Jacques that he was assigned to a mission, and that’s when a long made-to-measure training program for a two-year period to prepare for his stay in space began, and David finally flew toward the International Space Station last December 3. During his space mission, David is conducting a series of scientific experiments and testing out new technologies. He also takes care of maintaining all of the space station systems with his crewmates. In exactly two weeks, on April 8, David will be doing a spacewalk with his American colleague, Nick Hague. It’s the first spacewalk for a Canadian Space Agency astronaut in almost 12 years, so we are all very excited and hope that everyone will tune in for that. It is a special moment we’re all going to want to watch. So, in a few moments, David will talk with us from the International Space Station. Its altitude is almost 400 kilometres and it is moving at a speed of almost 28,000 kilometres per hour. And the International Space Station, you see it here in a scaled-down model, but it is a laboratory. Essentially, it’s a research laboratory in space. It orbits the Earth 16 times a day. It’s the equivalent of a return trip between the Earth and the Moon every day. And we can clearly see the International Space Station at night. You go the Canadian Space Agency and, with the reflection of the light on the panels, you can see it. I did many times with children. This is an extraordinary moment. It’s a magical moment every time, but talking to him, that’s even better. A fun fact that should speak to all hockey fans out there: The station is as wide as five NHL rinks and has about as much living space as a five-bedroom house. The ISS circles the Earth about 400 kilometres above us and travels at a speed of about 28,000 kilometres an hour. That is 90 times faster than a Formula One race car and slightly faster than Mikaël Kingsbury going down a ski slope. In the next few moments, we’re going to conduct a sound test with the Mission Control Centre in Houston and the connection with David so that we can begin our question period live from space. So, thank you for connecting yourselves to social media. Feel free to share so that as many people as possible can live this experience with us. So, in a few moments, we’ll proceed with the protocol in order to connect with David. Station, this is Houston. Are you ready for the event? Houston, this is Station. I am ready. Canadian Space Agency, this is Mission Control Houston. Please call Station for a voice check. Station, this is Pierre-Yves Lord at the Canadian Space Agency. How do you hear me? Hello. I hear you loud and clear. Hi, David! I’m Samantha Yammine and it is such an honour to get to speak with you today. We have so many questions for you. Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with us. So let’s start right away. A few weeks ago, you tweeted that you were trying on your space suits to adjust for space growth. What does this involve, and how else do you and the crew prepare for upcoming spacewalks while you’re aboard the ISS? So we are now what we call the “road to EVA.” These are very, very busy weeks leading to a spacewalk. There is so much preparation. It’s not just like putting on a suit and going outside; entire weeks of hard work for the entire crew to get all the systems ready, the airlock ready, assemble the suits in various parts to make the sizing just right, check the oxygen system, the cooling system, the radio system, the life support system, the carbon dioxide scrubbing system. And then all the tools, of course. That’s just the suit. Then all the tools, review the tasks we will be working on, maybe coordinate with robotics that’s the Canadian part of the whole process. So it’s a huge amount of work for an international team, and it culminates with those few hours of the actual spacewalk. And we had one last Friday, very successful. Good. Hello David. My name is Pierre-Yves Lord. I’m very happy to be able to chat with you. I really enjoyed watching you, in fact watching the International Space Station in orbit with my children. I did it from French Polynesia by following the Space Agency’s instructions. So, right now we are looking at the sky and we see you fly by. Also in Quebec City, we found a place in the woods, far from the city lights, and we waved to you. And every time, I’m surprised by the speed. From our perspective, we see you appear slowly and we don’t realize that you are actually flying at almost 28,000 kilometres per hour. And it’s strange because we follow you slowly, and finally we realize that we did a 180 to see you disappear a few seconds later. What are the precise moments when you are most aware of the speed at which you are flying? Well, the only moments when we feel – we perceive that we are moving fast, it’s when we look out the window. When I look out the window, I see the Earth that is moving very fast. I go across Canada in about 10 minutes. That’s when you realize how fast you are going. But here on board, look, I’m floating inside the Station. I never have the impression of moving very fast, in fact, not at all. We forget that we are in orbit here, apart from the fact that we are floating. It’s simply by looking outside that we realize the dizzying speed at which we are travelling. Thank you, David. So now it’s Hello. Me, I’m Anne-Marie. You, it’s? Emma-Rose. And we are fascinated by your journey, your career. We think it’s fabulous. In Emma-Rose’s class, what did they do?
What did you do in Emma-Rose’s class? We listened. You listened to the presentation, the Facebook Live? Yes. Yes. And since that time, Emma, I think she listened to it five times, she finds it so fascinating to see you float in space, to float with the mike. So that, here, today we have two questions. What’s the first one? Does the Canadarm talk? Does the Canadarm talk. Then, the second question, is: Is it beautiful in space and can you describe what you see now? Does the Canadarm talk? Yes, it talks, but it speaks the language of machines. It speaks in code, as we say. So, we can make it move by sending it coded messages, by programming it. That’s the language of all the machines around us, so, if you want to talk to the machines around you, you have to learn how to code. And perhaps that in your school, it’s something that you will learn, programming. That’s the language of the Canadarm. Then, well, the question about what we see outside, yes, it’s very beautiful. What is especially beautiful, it’s the Earth. The, space, it’s black, black, black. Even during the day, the sky is black. We see the stars anyway. Even when the sun is out, the sky is black. That’s a little weird, right? But when we look at the Earth, that’s when it’s really fantastic, because the Earth, we see the ball that is Earth, and the Earth, it seems to be shining. There is like a small blue layer, a very beautiful blue, a bright sky blue, almost permanently phosphorescent around the Earth. And that, every time, I find it really impressive. We see it moving slowly and the clouds change constantly, lightening, we see that it’s alive. In fact, it’s the only living thing we see; the rest, they are dead stars. The Moon, it’s beautiful, but it’s a big rock. There is no life on it. So, the Earth, it impresses me each time with its beauty and brightness. Thank you, David. I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that we’re talking to you from space, but I want to move on to our next question, from our friends over at Seeker. They want to know: What’s the most difficult thing to describe about space? I had so many years of training coming to space, training to ride the rocket, training to be here on the space station, that lot of it is familiar, initially, because you’ve seen it a little bit, you’ve seen films, maybe videos, trainers, mock-up facilities. But at the same time, there’s something so bizarre, because you’re floating. You’re just floating all the time. And it can be I mean, now, I’m used to it and I can be standing like this talking to you and it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t feel like I’m upside down. I only notice when I look around, but I can be like this, I can sleep in any position. It doesn’t really matter. And it’s so strange how your body adapts. The human body and the human mind are so adaptable that, after a while, I feel like I was born here, almost. I can fly very easily and I don’t get confused. So that’s, I guess, the most amazing thing here, is the fact that you can actually adapt to this environment and it feels, at some point, normal. Thank you, David. Now, here’s a question from Fred Bastien, who is with us here from the Space Agency. Hello, David Saint-Jacques. It’s an honour that my voice is resonating somewhere in this small International Space Station in space. My question is the following: Now that you Ah, ah, ah. Yes, what do we dream about? Me, I always had – I would go through one dream at a time, step by step. Now, I sometimes wake up and dream of being on Earth. Obviously, I dream of being with my family, with my children, with my friends, with the people I love. We keep in touch, but it’s more abstract. You know, seeing Earth so beautiful, unique, united, it strengthens my conviction that humans beings, we are all in the same gang. And the differences between us are not as important as what unites us. And this makes me want to, seeing this from above, return to Earth and just contribute to improving life on Earth, because it’s the most beautiful place in the universe. Thank you. Next, we have a question from ASAP Science. They want to know, if the space station would have some kind of solarium, is your risk of sunburn more significant from space? Definitely, the rays of the sun here are very, very dangerous for human skin, with the ultra-violet, but all our windows have very, very strong ultra-violet protection, just like sunglasses have on Earth. There are a few windows that do not have that that we use for scientific purposes, for experiments, and we would not open those window shutters without, you know, wearing sunscreen and sunshade protection. But when you open the window shades, you can feel the warmth coming in, but our skin is safe because of the ultra-violet filters that are embedded inside the windows. So we actually have kind of a solarium. It’s called the “cupola.” It’s like a hemisphere. It’s like a hexagon of glass panes, and we can fit our entire body in there and you feel like you’re floating in space. It’s my favourite place on the station. Now here’s question from Kim Boutin. Hello, David. In fact, I am very intrigued because, we, when we train to go to the Olympics, it’s many years of work, a lot of mental and physical preparation. Then me, I wonder, when you leave for – you know, you, you leave for many months, then I say to myself: How can you compare that to our preparation? Well first, congratulations for your incredible success. Well, I’m sure that one of the things that we have in common, is preparation. We astronauts also do a lot of visualization. We apply our procedures, then we try to imagine in our heads what it will be like in reality. We imagine ourselves in the situation, For example, we imagine ourselves doing, putting on a spacesuit. We imagine ourselves going outside. We imagine, sometimes it’s robotics. We can imagine how it will unfold so as to prepare our minds for the stress that will come with the performance. And once we have clearly visualized, then, we already feel ready. Then what is also very important for us, and I imagine that you as athletes do this as well, we try to visualize all the problems that could occur, and we ask ourselves what we would do with that problem. And we spend a lot of time analyzing what could go wrong, and we try to find a solution, to think about it ahead of time. In this way, first, it eliminates the anxiety of wondering what we would do, and then, second, if one day we have a problem, well, we know exactly what to do. Thus, it’s preparation, preparation, preparation. We talk a lot with people who have gone through this before us. We have many – we have coaches, if you will. There are more experienced astronauts who give us advice, instructors, so it’s very similar. I’m looking forward to hearing your answer to this next question, which comes from Sean Smith, head coach at Social Media Camp. Now, Chris Hadfield demonstrated the power of social media in sharing his experience on the International Space Station. Now that it’s your turn, what message do you hope to emphasize to that same global audience? You know, we all come to this from a personal perspective, I suppose. For me, what is really most important about human space flights and what is personally transformative is the perspective that it gives me. I think, human beings, we’re explorers, and we always like to try to step back and get a bigger and bigger understanding of the world around us. We started out, metaphorically, in the caves, we got out in the plains, climbed mountains, went in the other valleys, crossed rivers, reached the ocean, built boats. Every time our bubble got bigger, if you want, in our minds. We invented airplanes, flew around the world. Now we’re getting out of the Earth and seeing the Earth as a whole from far away, and that perspective gave us so much wisdom. That perspective of the whole world as one is what gave rise to the environmental movement, what gave rise to globalization and bigger ambitions for world peace, and what gave rise for collaboration around the world. And I think these are very important for the younger generation. So, to me, we owe to space that great perspective it gives us into where we actually come from. That image of the Earth floating in space, that’s our spacecraft. Every human is an astronaut. We’re all on the same spacecraft, spacecraft Earth, floating in the vacuum of space, and we have to take really good care of that spacecraft, and we have to work together because there’s nowhere else that we can live. David, the next question is from photographer Alexandre Champagne, who is asking: What are the biggest challenges in taking photos of Earth from space? It’s an art that we have to learn, an art that is transferred from astronaut to astronaut, as soon as there is a new crew. So, well, the first challenge is that the Earth moves. So, your subject is there for a few minutes, no more. You just have one chance. It might return in a few days; it might be nighttime, you don’t know. Will there be clouds? So, there is something evanescent about the subject. After that, well, there lighting contrasts. The Earth can be very bright. The Sun is in the sky. The sky is black, the inside of the cupola is very dark. So, you have to manage various levels of light and manage the movement of the Earth. So, it’s a little like, you know, doing sport photography, I would say. That, it’s a little (what we have) in common. And the fact that, that’s it, it just comes – beautiful subjects are there for only a moment. It very evanescent. We have another question from Seeker for you. During your six-month stay, the crew will take part in roughly 250 scientific experiments. Which one are you most excited for, and why? On the space station, as you know, we do hundreds of experiments, and we’ve done thousands since the beginning of the station. They are on very different subjects, ranging from fundamental physics to, you know, plasma, to astronomy, material science, technology demonstrations, and life support technology. For me, because I was a physician before, working in a small village in the Arctic, what’s most exciting is everything that has to do with remote-care health care. So, you know, to take care of the health of astronauts who are far away from Earth is a very similar problem to taking care of the health of people who live in a small community in a remote place, like in northern Canada, for example, or any small village, or to take care of people who are soldiers who are deployed, or expeditions climbing mountains, or people who work in dangerous environments on the Earth. Or even elderly people who have a hard time leaving their home to go to the hospital; they are kind of, themselves, in a remote environment. And so all the technology that we developed to do what we call “remote-care medicine” or “telemedicine,” we can apply directly to people on Earth. So I always find that particularly exciting, whenever we come up with some good ideas to make astronauts more independent in taking care of their own health care, because I know by experience that that will have direct applications on Earth. Thank you. Now it’s Martin Carli’s turn. Hello, David. So, for you, I have both a question, but also response options, as is the custom on the show that I have the pleasure of co-hosting. So, here’s my question: Why do astronauts have to undergo a lot of training when they are on board the Space Station? Is it because their bones get longer, because they lose bone mass, or because they gain bone mass? Ah ah! So, the answer, it’s because, if we do nothing, we lose bone mass. The explanation for this is that our body is very, very, if you will, an energy saver and we have strong bones only because we need them. When we are on Earth, when things are heavy, when we walk, this puts stress on our bones each time, our body feels the impacts and this strengthens our bones. If we stop moving, if we are in bed for example because we are sick or if we don’t do many sports because we are a little lazy, then our body says, well, I don’t need my bones, so we get rid of them And here in space, we see this very quickly. As soon as were are in a state of weightlessness, we immediately see, within a few hours, a lot of calcium in our urine. This means that we are dissolving our bones and urinating them. So, if we continue in this way for months, we will return to Earth with very fragile bones at risk of fracture, so what we do is we exercise. And in this way, by simulating gravity, our bodies maintain strong bones. Same thing for our muscles, obviously, and tendons. But the specific case of bones in interesting because there is an illness on Earth, osteoporosis, which affect many seniors, in particular. It’s a bit the same process, but that comes with age, except that here in space it happens with healthy young people, and it happens very, very fast. Therefore, we are little like perfect Guinea pigs for research on osteoporosis. And now a question from Mikaël. Hi. It’s a huge honour to speak to you. I’m a freestyle skier, and I do a lot of flips and twisting, and spatial orientation is huge for me. I have to be very good in the air, but I use the gravity to make sure I land on my feet. But once you’re at, you know, zero gravity, you’re in space, how is your spatial orientation impacted? That’s a very good question. You know, initially when you come to zero gravity, you are very easily disoriented because your brain is missing the information of where is up and where is down. You still have the feeling that you’re turning, but you’ve kind of lost all absolute reference of what’s up and what’s down. So initially it can actually make you a bit nauseated, like being carsick. And then after a while it’s as if your brain decided to forget about gravity — that’s not there anymore, too bad — and all you have left are visual cues. So if you notice, looking around here, we made walls. We decided to have walls that were vertical, and a floor, and a ceiling, and this is all abstract. Everything that’s written on the wall is written the same way, you know, the writing up, so that mentally we know, looking around, which is up and which is down. But other than that, there is no way to tell. If I close my eyes and I slowly tumble, when I open my eyes, I mean, I’ll be surprised which way I’m pointing, because I don’t have that gravity reference coming from the inner ear. It’s been disconnected, if you want. And when I come back to Earth and gravity hits again, I’ll have to re-learn to use the sense of gravity, because I won’t be able to use that sense to stand up, and I will be very easily tipped over. I’ll have to hold someone’s hand or hold someone’s shoulder to walk for the first few days. So, yes, we kind of adapt to it, in a way. No gravity? Too bad; forget about it. Let’s use other things. It’s mostly what we see. Then, David, unfortunately, this is all the time we have with you. We would like to thank you sincerely for these precious minutes that you gave us. We know that your days a very busy, particularly in anticipation of the spacewalks, so it has been an honour for all of us at the Canadian Space Agency to be able to benefit from this unique moment. And the entire community that is following the Canadian Space Agency on social media, really, we have experienced some very beautiful moments. Thank you very much. Excellent questions, great discussions. I’m always pleased to take a small break like this from the fast-paced preparation to share my experience. Thank you for organizing the event. Thank you very much. Thank you, David. Thank you. Station, this is Houston ACR. That concludes the event.

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