He carried a piece of Western into space and landed it safely home again. And now, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will help launch new graduates into the next stages of their lives.
Saint-Jacques spoke, virtually, to some of the newest Western graduates on June 14 during spring convocation celebrations.
The Canadian Space Agency astronaut owns the record of having worked the longest Canadian space mission to date: a 204-day flight, from late 2018 to mid-2019, aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
His role as a mentor and model to young science researchers is exemplified by his encouragement to students when Canada announced a partnership in February 2019 with NASA’s Lunar Gateway program (with Western expertise a key part of the project). “Canada is inviting you to dream big,” Saint-Jacques said from the ISS.
In a noteworthy list of Canadian astronauts – as illustrious a group of scientists as can be found anywhere – Saint-Jacques may well be the most accomplished.
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques answers 10 questions in 60 seconds (Canadian Space Agency video)
He holds a degree in engineering physics from École polytechnique de Montréal, and a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge. He went on to work as an astrophysicist in the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States and Canada.
He then earned a medical degree from Université Laval and had a family medical practice in northern Canada, before rising to the top from among thousands of prospective astronauts to join the CSA in 2009.
Saint-Jacques holds a commercial pilot license and an advanced scuba-diving licence. He is a mountaineer, skier, rower and sailor. He speaks fluent French and English, and conversational Russian, Spanish and Japanese.
While aboard the ISS, he conducted science experiments, shared science talks with hundreds of students through video links, operated the Canadarm2 and was crew medical officer.
He is one of 18 outstanding individuals upon whom Western is conferring honorary degrees during spring convocation.
Saint-Jacques and Western have a long-standing relationship. In January 2019, a month after he blasted off into space, he launched Exploring Earth, a web-based initiative that uses photos he is taking in orbit to explain the amazing science of how Earth works.
Supporting materials for the initiative were compiled by Western space experts, as well as by Western geographers, geologists, biologists, the Centre for Teaching and Learning, and graduate and post-doctoral scholars.
Saint-Jacques even laid a foundation for the launch in October 2019 of the Institute for Earth and Space Exploration (Western Space). Months earlier, he carried a Western patch to the ISS and shot a photo of it, and its corner of space through the ISS cupola.
He returned the patch to Earth, and it was placed in a frame to become part of Western Space inaugural celebrations.