Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques returns to Earth
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques has returned to Earth after more than six months aboard the International Space Station.
Saint-Jacques landed in central Kazakhstan at 10:47 p.m. ET Monday, along with NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko aboard a Soyuz capsule.
NASA described the landing, which was less than a minute ahead of schedule, as “picture perfect” as the capsule descended. When the crew established contact with the search-and-recovery forces right before landing they said they were doing well.
Their journey back to Earth lasted more than six hours.
The astronauts all emerged out of the capsule within minutes of landing. Saint-Jacques was the last to be carried out and he gave a thumbs-up to cameras.
They were carried to chairs setup nearby, where medical staff were awaiting their arrival. Astronauts were offered water and fresh fruit as they sat in the chairs.
Saint-Jacques’ mission began on Dec. 3, when he was part of the first crewed Soyuz mission following a rocket mishap that forced a spacecraft carrying two astronauts to abort and make an emergency landing last October.
He took part in a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk in April and a “cosmic catch” of SpaceX Dragon cargo using Canadarm2 — the first time a Canadian astronaut has operated the robotic arm to perform the feat.
The Saint-Lambert, Que., native set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a Canadian at 204 days.
The astronaut’s return was celebrated by Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette, who is a former astronaut.
Saint-Jacques faces a fairly tough recovery process.
He told reporters earlier he’s aware of the physical challenges that await after six months in zero gravity, including blood circulation problems, muscle pains and an elongated spine that will return to normal. It could mean trouble walking and moving around for a while.
Canadian Space Agency officials have said rehabilitation is one of their main priorities in the coming days.
WATCH: Soyuz spacecraft carrying Canadian David Saint-Jacques lands on Earth
Saint-Jacques is now in Kazhakstan, but will travel to Houston this week, where he will be reunited with his family. The 49-year-old is a married father of three young children.
From Houston, the astronaut is expected to take part in a news conference on Friday.
He will return to Canada in mid-July and visit the Canadian Space Agency.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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