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On Oct 11, 2018, a Soyuz rocket failure caused an aborted mission, which sent two astronauts plummeting 80 kilometres back down to earth. But not even two months later Russia is getting ready for a quick return to space — and they’ll be taking a Canadian with them.
Last week, the Canadian Space Agency confirmed that Saint-Jacques, 48, will be part of the launch on December 3 for a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station, which is more than two weeks earlier than initially planned.
There had been some question around what would happen to the Canadian’s voyage after the Soyuz rocket failure. Two minutes into that flight, the rocket aborted at an altitude of 80 kilometres as it soared towards the International Space Station and sent the capsule holding NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Alexei Ovchinin of Roscosmos falling back down to earth. Fortunately, both astronauts were unharmed.
Last week NASA explained the cause of the problem was one of the Soyuz’s four first-stage engines separated abnormally and hit the second-stage rocket that caused the loss of stabilization. The separation was the result of a sensor failure linked to an error during rocket assembly at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, as per a statement made by Roscosms, the Russian space agency.
Last week Roscosmos successfully launched an uncrewed Soyuz rocket and said Wednesday that they planned to deploy two more before sending a crew to the space station.
The 50-year old Soyuz rocket is the only way for humans to transit to and from the ISS. However, NASA is working to change that and said it expects the first U.S. crew flights to begin in 2019 aboard vehicles manufactured from Boeing Co. and SpaceX.
The December launch of the Expedition 58 crew will also include U.S. astronaut Anne McClain, the U.S. space agency said, pending a customary flight-readiness review. Saint-Jacques and his crewmates are presently outside Moscow at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre getting ready for their upcoming mission.
Once aboard the ISS, they will join NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.
Saint-Jacques has trained extensively for the past two years for the mission — his first since becoming an astronaut in May 2009.
The St-Lambert, Que. Native was part of the backup crew twice in the past five months, including for the aborted Soyuz mission in October.
He has been trained in spacewalks and operating the robotics on the station and, as a qualified medical doctor, will also help with the crew’s health.
Roscosmos intends to launch a Progress supply vessel to the ISS on Nov. 16. The three crew members aboard the space station will return on Dec. 20, as per a statement made by Roscosmos. This is one week later than initially planned.