Space robots at root of Canadian astronaut missions

Canadian Space Agency Press Release | September 7, 2018

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 26 seconds.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques is set to launch on his mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Dec. 19, 2018.

Canadarm2 in action on the International Space Station
Canadarm2 in action on the International Space Station. NASA Photo

Along with his crewmates, he took part in a press conference on Sept. 6, 2018, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The astronauts will conduct science experiments and help maintain the Station during their mission.

They will also use Canadarm2 to catch and release cargo ships, and to move astronauts around the Station in the event of a spacewalk.

Canadian space robots play an essential role on the ISS, keeping it running by replacing parts like cameras, computers, batteries, and switches.

Canadarm2 and Dextre now catch and unload more and more cargo ships delivering supplies to astronauts, as space becomes more accessible. They even repair themselves in space.

Canada is now exploring ways to equip future space robots with artificial intelligence. Giving robots a degree of autonomy will be critical for new missions into deep space.

“I have been training hard for this mission for many years now, and in a way I have been preparing for it all my life,” said Saint-Jacques.

“Only a few more months, and I will be up there, following in the footsteps of the great Canadians who have flown to space before me. To live such an extraordinary adventure is a rare privilege, and promises to be a powerful, humbling experience. I’ll be ready, and I can’t wait!”
“I am very much looking forward to the day when all of David Saint-Jacques’ training, hard work and sacrifice come to fruition with his first voyage to the International Space Station,” said Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

“As with all of our astronauts to go to space, I know that he will showcase Canadian space innovation, and will make us all very proud.”

Quick facts

  • David Saint-Jacques’ long-duration mission will launch in December 2018 and he will return to Earth in June 2019, making this the longest Canadian mission ever;
  • He will depart for the International Space Station (ISS) alongside his Expedition 58/59 crewmates: Anne C. McClain and Oleg Kononenko;
    Saint-Jacques is an engineer, astrophysicist and medical doctor. He will conduct Canadian science experiments during his mission;
  • In exchange for our robotic contribution, Canadian astronauts have been able to fly on space missions. Eight Canadian astronauts have flown to space so far; the last one was Chris Hadfield, who became the commander of the Station;
  • Canadarm2 and Dextre have inspired technologies that improve health care on Earth: NeuroArm, the first robot capable of performing surgery inside a magnetic resonance machine; IGAR, an advanced platform for use in the early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer; and Modus V, a robotic digital microscope that could help neurosurgeons perform minimally invasive clinical procedures with greater safety and efficiency.


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