Frequently Asked Questions – Astronauts

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques - Mission

When is David Saint-Jacques scheduled to launch to the International Space Station (ISS)?

Expedition 58/59 is set to launch in November 2018. David Saint-Jacques and his crewmates will launch to the ISS and return to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Visit the important dates page to learn more.

How long will David Saint-Jacques be aboard the International Space Station?

David Saint-Jacques will live and work on the International Space Station for approximately six months, from November 2018 to May 2019.

Who are the Expedition 58/59 crew members?

Visit the Expedition 58/59 crew page to learn more.

What will be David Saint-Jacques' roles and responsibilities during the mission?

Visit the David's roles and responsibilities page to learn more.

What Canadian science experiments are planned on the International Space Station during this mission?

Visit the Canadian science on the International Space Station page to learn more.

Canadian astronauts

How many Canadian astronauts are there?

Since 1983, 14 Canadians have been selected to become astronauts.

Ten of the people are now retired from the Canadian Space Agency.

Currently there are four active Canadian astronauts: Jeremy Hansen, David Saint-Jacques, Jennifer Sidey and Joshua Kutryk.

Who will be the next Canadian astronaut in space?

In 2018, David Saint-Jacques will take his seat on a Soyuz rocket and launch to the International Space Station.

Expedition 58/59 will be the first mission for David Saint-Jacques and will mark the 17th space flight for the Canadian Astronaut Corps.

Who was the first Canadian to fly into space?

Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space when he participated in Mission STS-41G in October 1984.

Who was the first Canadian to conduct a spacewalk?

Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian to set foot in space. He conducted two spacewalks to help attach the powerful Canadarm2 to the International Space Station during Mission STS-100 in April 2001.

Where do the astronauts live when they are not on a space mission?

Active Canadian astronauts live in Houston, Texas. They work at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

They travel back to Canada periodically to meet and speak with Canadians, participate in outreach events, and encourage young Canadians to pursue their education in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Their training often takes them to other places around the world, such as Russia, Japan and Europe.

What do astronauts do when they are not on a space mission?

Visit the About the job page to learn more.

How to contact astronauts

How can I contact an astronaut?

The contact information of active and retired astronauts is confidential. However, you can write them an email or send a letter to:

Canadian Astronaut Office
Attention: [Astronaut's name]
Canadian Space Agency
6767 Route de l'Aéroport
Saint-Hubert, Quebec J3Y 8Y9

For any interview request, please contact Media Relations.

How can I invite an astronaut to be a guest speaker at an event?

Visit the Invite a Canadian astronaut to an event page to learn more.

Working in space

How often do astronauts conduct scientific experiments on the International Space Station (ISS)?

Astronauts conduct scientific experiments every day on the ISS, but they have a reduced workload on Saturday and Sunday.

Living in space

Can astronauts easily adapt to microgravity?

Watch this video in which Chris Hadfield explains how the human body adapts to microgravity.

What do astronauts eat in space? Does weightlessness affect their sense of taste?

Visit the Eating in space page to learn more.

What do the astronauts' personal quarters look like on the International Space Station?

Visit the Sleeping in space page to learn more.

How often do astronauts exercise on the International Space Station?

Visit the Physical activity in space page to learn more.

Isn't it lonely on the International Space Station?

Here is retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's answer to this question:

"In the centre of every big city in the world, surrounded by noise and teeming millions of people, are lonely people.

Loneliness is not so much where you are, but instead is your state of mind. On Station with the world in our window, people on the radio, family just a phone call away, and other crew members to chat with, plus a full plate of experiments and work to do.

Loneliness is no more of a problem than it is everywhere else."

Can you cry in space?

Yes! You can cry in space and your eyes make tears, just like on Earth. However, because of weightlessness, tears don't fall in space; they stick to your eyes as liquid balls.

Astronauts need to use handkerchiefs to wipe their tears.

How do you go to the bathroom in space?

Visit the Personal hygiene in space page to learn more.

What does space smell like?

The vacuum of space has no smell. But when astronauts come in from a spacewalk, the airlock smells like metal or gunpowder.

What does space look like from the International Space Station?

According to retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, "It looks like a carpet of countless tiny perfect unblinking lights in endless velvet, with the Milky Way as a glowing area of paler texture."

How do astronauts wash their clothes in space?

They don't! It would take too much water on board the International Space Station.

Astronauts wear their clothes until they are too dirty and then throw them out in a re-supply ship, which burns in the atmosphere on re-entry.

How do astronauts take a shower in space?

Visit the Personal hygiene in space page to learn more.

What is the prettiest thing to look at from space?

All astronauts give the same answer: planet Earth!

Julie Payette never grew tired of "the magnificent beauty of our planet. From space, it looks like a blue and white marble against a backdrop of blackness. In orbit, you can see the clouds, the oceans, the mountains, and even the general shape of major cities and airports."

Do female astronauts get their period in space?

Yes, female astronauts get their period in space just like they do on Earth. No menstrual problems have been associated with living in microgravity.

In the early years of human space flight, some worried that women would not have their periods safely in microgravity. They thought that microgravity might cause menstrual fluid to travel upwards into the body instead of out of it – also called retrograde menstrual flow. This would mean that blood would flow from the uterine cavity into the fallopian tubes and then into the pelvis and abdomen, causing pain and increasing the risk for endometriosis. While this has not been observed in past space missions, more studies are needed to better understand how the body works and reacts to microgravity.

For a variety of reasons, however, many female astronauts prefer to take low-dose oral contraceptives in a continuous fashion to reduce or stop menses during a long-duration mission; therefore, accumulating information on natural menstrual cycles in space is expected to take several years.

How does water reach the International Space Station (ISS)?

Part of the water on the ISS is sent through bags in supply vessels. The other part is recycled from the water that is already on board!

Check out this video where Chris Hadfield demonstrates how the Water Recovery System works, recycling 93% of the water and other fluids produced on board! The wastewater (urine, moisture, sweat, etc.) is purified to make drinking water. Since the system was implemented in 2010, about 6,000 litres of water per year have been recycled on the ISS.

The ISS is practically a self-sustaining environment in terms of drinking water production. This is a critical step towards living for long periods off of planet Earth, and it is also useful in remote parts of the world!

Hazards of space

What kinds of hazards are astronauts exposed to on the job?

The biggest danger is launch - all that power and acceleration.

Once they are in orbit, astronauts face a steady threat of radiation, meteorite impacts, and system failure on the International Space Station, like fire, ammonia breakthrough, or depressurization.

Can astronauts hear it when meteorites hit the International Space Station (ISS) or the solar panels?

Sometimes astronauts hear "pings!" as micrometeorites and bits of space debris hit the ISS. The solar panels are full of tiny holes from the impacts!

Aren't astronauts scared to be in space?

Here is retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's answer to this question:

"Fear comes from being unprepared when facing the unknown.

Being thrust into an unexpected situation and not knowing what to do makes everyone uncomfortable, and thus we fear it, especially if it can embarrass or kill us. As astronauts, we avoid this by working for years to understand the unknown, and decide in advance what we will do.

That's why we study so much, and why we live and work in simulators. Often the 1st time you try something hard you are nervous, but the 50th time it feels normal. We try and make everything that might happen during a space flight feel just like that.

So it's not that we're extra-brave - we're just extra-prepared."

Is it cold or hot in space?

Both! The International Space Station (ISS) orbits 350 to 400 km above the Earth's surface. In the shade, it's -120 degrees Celsius, and +150 degrees Celsius in the sun.

The astronauts can hear the creaks and snaps of expanding metal as the ISS goes in and out of the sunlight!

The farther from the sun, the colder it is. These significant temperature differences need to be taken into careful consideration when designing spacecraft or satellites.

Time and schedule in space

What time zone do astronauts live by?

They live on Greenwich time (GMT), the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). It's a compromise between the Mission Control Centers in Houston and Moscow.

Pro tip: just remember that time on the International Space Station is the same as in London, England!

Do astronauts switch off the lights at "night"?

They shut off most lights at bedtime - it feels right to do it! Plus, it helps save a lot of precious power and energy on the International Space Station.

Visit the Sleeping in space page to learn more.

Space exploration

How can I see a launch?

July 8, 2011, marked the final launch of the Space Shuttle Program.

However, there are other unmanned launches that take place at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Please refer to the KSC website for more information about how to watch a launch from an official launch-viewing area.

Other sites exist in Europe, French Guyana and Kazakhstan, for example. Visit those space agencies' websites to learn more.

Remember that nowadays, it's much easier to see launches on the Web, thanks to social media!

What is the longest time anyone has ever spent in space?

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka holds the record for the longest accumulated stay in space, clocking 879 days in orbit, during five different missions.

Another Russian cosmonaut, Dr. Valeri Polyakov, holds the record for the longest continuous stay in space: 437 days, 17 hours and 38 minutes (14 months) on Mir, from January 1994 to March 1995.

Speed and location of the International Space Station

How long does it take for the International Space Station (ISS) to orbit the Earth?

The ISS orbits the world every 92 minutes at an average altitude of 360 km. That's a speed of 8 km, 500 km/minute or 28,000 km/hr. Or about Mach 25!

Where is the International Space Station right now?

Visit the How to see the Space Station from your backyard page.

Can I see the International Space Station from my backyard?

Yes! Visit the How to see the Space Station from your backyard page.

Internet and social media in space

How do astronauts find the time to use social media on the International Space Station?

Astronauts work in the labs all day. But when there's a short break between events, they can quickly zip in and share what they're doing, or send a recent picture.

It's a new and extremely simple way to share the incredible adventure of space travel, with the rawness of immediacy.

Visit the Relaxing in space page to learn more.

How can astronauts use Twitter or social media from space?

Astronauts use social media on a regular laptop. The International Space Station signal is relayed via satellite to a mirror site at Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas.

Though the connection is very slow, and only available at certain times of the day (depending on satellite links), it allows for direct, simple access to the Internet, making it perfect for Twitter and other social media.

Visit the Relaxing in space page to learn more.

Taking pictures and filming in space

Does time spent taking pictures affect the scientific work?

Taking pictures of the Earth is a designated part of the scientific work on board the International Space Station.

Astronauts track:

It's also a favourite hobby to pursue in the evening. Check out this video where Chris Hadfield shares his techniques and his passion for capturing fleeting glimpses of our changing world.

What kind of cameras do astronauts use to take photos of the Earth from the International Space Station (ISS)?

The cameras on the ISS are continuously replaced as new models come out. The vast majority of the cameras are now Nikon D4, but some of the older cameras have been kept.

Astronauts use a variety of lenses out to 400 mm. They can even take them out into the vacuum of space!

How do astronauts know what part of the Earth they are over when they take pictures?

Since the International Space Station (ISS) orbits Earth every 92 minutes, astronauts get to know the planet pretty well… sort of like how you know your own neighbourhood!

Astronauts also have a computer on the ISS that detects their location, plus a couple of big atlases.

Why don't astronauts take photos of the stars or the Moon?

They can, but most of the windows on the International Space Station face the Earth.

To photograph the stars, they also need to make it dark, and the upwards-facing windows are in brightly lit locations.

And finally, the stars, though clear and bright from space, are not significantly different from what we see on a very clear and dark night on Earth. And our planet's details and contrasts are much more mesmerizing!

Why are the night shots covered in small multi-coloured dots?

Photos from the International Space Station are taken with a high ISO parameter. With the high radiation in space, the pixels die much faster.

Therefore, the night shots come out covered in dots that look like multi-coloured stars. White spots mean all (RGB) subpixels have failed. Red, green and blue spots mean a failure of any number of the other subpixels.

Do astronauts edit the videos they make on the International Space Station?

The Canadian Space Agency edits and posts the Canadian astronauts' videos on social media.

Can you see Earth pollution from space?

Yes, Earth pollution is visible from space.

Light pollution

The Cities at Night project – a collaboration of the Universidad Complutense of Madrid, the Cégep de Sherbrooke and members of the public – is tracking light pollution.

The project aims to:

Atmospheric pollution

Satellites – including our Canadian Earth Observation Satellites – monitor our environment and the effects of pollution on air, water and land.

For example, they can collect data on carbon monoxide emissions across the globe, and track whether they are from natural or human sources.

Also, from the ISS, astronauts can clearly see:

Astronaut recruitment

Can you put me in touch with one of the new astronauts for an interview?

For requests to interview Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronauts or spokespeople, please contact Media Relations.

Can you put me in touch with one of the unselected candidates for an interview?

The CSA does not facilitate interviews with unselected candidates. You can consult their profiles on the CSA's website to learn more about them.

Can you describe the tests the candidates were put through during this recruitment process?

Read our Astronaut Recruitment Campaign recap.

How were the tests developed?

The CSA's astronaut recruitment campaign online application was done in collaboration with the Public Service Commission.

The evaluation tools used to assess the candidates as part of the CSA's astronaut recruitment campaign were developed in collaboration with the Department of National Defence's Director of Fitness (DFIT) and Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis. These candidates' assessments were executed with direct support from the following organizations:

The medical assessment of the candidates was conducted with direct support from the Canadian Forces Health Services Group and the following organizations:

How did the CSA ensure a diversified pool of candidates?

The recruitment campaign was open to all Canadians who met the education and professional experience requirements. More than 13% of the 3772 applications received were submitted by people who self-identified as visible minorities, and about 22.5% were women. The CSA received applications from all regions of Canada, as well as from Canadians living abroad.

The selection process was designed to be rigorous and meet the highest standards of fairness. The selected candidates are those who best met all requirements for the position.

What are the next steps for the two new astronauts?

In the upcoming weeks, the two new astronauts will move to Houston, Texas, to begin their astronauts' basic training with NASA's Astronaut Candidate Class of 2017 at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The objective of the basic training program, which lasts approximately two years, is to ensure that all astronauts attain the same level of knowledge and expertise on a wide range of subjects.

Upon successful completion of the basic training program, candidates are officially given the title of astronaut.

Learn more about the training astronauts take and the tasks they perform.

What kind of training will they receive?

All astronaut recruits must take a three-phase training program.

New astronauts first undergo basic training, which focuses on basic astronaut skills. It covers many subjects, from space flight to life science, robotics, Earth Observation, media relations and handling of photo equipment.

Recruits will also be put in challenging situations to help them develop their operational and analytical skills as well as judgment in extreme conditions. They will learn to fly a plane; practise spacewalking in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a 12-metre-deep swimming pool; and participate in space mission simulations and survival expeditions.

Upon successful completion of the basic training program, candidates are officially given the title of astronaut and move on to the next phase of their training.

What type of missions can we expect these new astronauts to take part in and when?

Canada is currently entitled to two long-duration astronaut flights to the International Space Station (ISS) between now and 2022. The first one, scheduled to launch in November 2018, will send David Saint-Jacques to the ISS for approximately six months. Jeremy Hansen will fly by 2022.

As nations work together to chart the next major international space exploration missions, our continued role in the ISS will ensure that Canada is well positioned to be a trusted partner in humanity's next steps in space while ensuring benefits for Canadians on Earth.

The astronauts recruited through this campaign are likely to fly on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, or on new space vehicles, such as SpaceX's Crew Dragon, Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, and NASA's Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV), built by Lockheed Martin.

What is the annual salary of an astronaut?

The astronauts' salary scale has three levels:

  1. Entry level: Includes the training period (formal training and work experience) required to become fully proficient in an operational setting related to space flight.
  2. Qualified level: Is attained after successful completion of the NASA Astronaut Basic Training Program or equivalent. The astronaut is then deemed fully qualified and awaits a space mission assignment.
  3. Senior level: Is attained once the astronaut has successfully completed a space mission.

The salary scale for Levels I to III varies from $91,300 to $178,400.

What type of employment contract are astronauts given?

Astronauts are hired on a term basis.

The initial appointment serves as an evaluation period, lasting up to two years. Upon successful completion of the evaluation period, the astronaut will be offered a five-year term appointment, which may be renewed.

What exactly do astronauts do?

Visit the About the job page to learn more.

When was the Canadian Space Agency's last recruitment campaign?

The last astronaut recruitment campaign was held from March 31, 2008, to May 13, 2009. Two other campaigns were held in 1992 and 1983.

Visit the History of the Canadian Astronaut Corps page to learn more.

What are the requirements to become an astronaut?

Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page and the astronauts page to learn more.

What are the best programs of study in order to become an astronaut?

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) does not recommend any particular program of study.

You should choose a program of study that you love. That way, regardless of which career path you take, you will be doing something that will help you reach your potential.

The CSA generally recruits scientists, engineers and doctors with extensive knowledge and experience.

Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more. You can also get to know Canada's active and retired astronauts by visiting the astronauts page.

Are there any age restrictions on becoming an astronaut?

No. For your reference, the applicants chosen in 2009 by the Canadian Space Agency were 33 and 39 years old when they were selected.

The applicants chosen by NASA in 2013 were between ages 26 and 46 when they were selected.

Learn more about our Canadian astronauts and their careers.

Is it necessary to be a Canadian citizen to become a Canadian astronaut?

Applicants must be:

Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more.

Do you need any experience as a pilot to become an astronaut?

No. However, piloting experience, be it military or private, is a definite asset for any astronaut candidate.

Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more.

Are applications accepted from people who have undergone laser vision correction surgery?

Yes, applicants who have undergone refractive laser surgery (PRK or LASIK) are eligible.

However, the Canadian Space Agency does not recommend that applicants undergo refractive laser surgery for the sole purpose of applying for employment as an astronaut.

Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more about the required visual acuity.

Is it important to know how to swim in order to become an astronaut?

It is essential for astronauts to be able to swim, tread water and swim underwater.

During their basic training, astronauts participate in training to prepare them for spacewalks and space missions. As this training often takes place underwater, scuba diving certification is necessary.

In addition, astronauts in training are required to fly jets. To do so, they must successfully complete a military aquatic survival course.

During the recruitment campaign evaluations, applicants will be required to take a swimming test and demonstrate the following abilities:

Is the evaluation process physically demanding?

Yes. Astronaut candidates have to undergo examinations designed to evaluate their ability to become astronauts.

Because of the physical nature of this career, good physical fitness is essential.

Visit the Requirements and conditions of astronaut employment page to learn more.

What are the key dates in the 2017 astronaut recruitment campaign?

Visit the 2017 astronaut selection process page to learn more.

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