​David Saint-Jacques gets hero's welcome in Montreal

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques was welcomed back to the Canadian Space Agency with thunderous applause after spending more than six months in space.

Saint-Jacques was greeted with fanfare upon his return to the Canadian Space Agency

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, left, shows student Sophie Gentile and Innovations Minister Navdeep Bains the cramped space in the launch vechicle, at the Canadian Space Agency. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques was welcomed back to the Canadian Space Agency Wednesday with thunderous applause after spending more than six months in space.

​Space agency staff chanted his name as he returned to his hometown and recounted his experience in space.

He returned to Earth June 24, having been on the International Space Station for 204 days — setting a record for the longest single space flight by a Canadian.

On Wednesday, Saint-Jacques said he's still digesting the mission, as he answered questions from space agency staff and students.

"I had the chance to have a very full mission where I accomplished everything I could have dreamed of, so I leave without any regrets,'' he said. "I left full of renewed love for life on Earth.''

Saint-Jacques is helped out of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft just minutes after he landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on June 25. (Bill Ingalls/The Associated Press)

Saint-Jacques said his three children helped him with the transition by reminding him of all the things he'd missed, including feeling the wind and tasting fresh fruit.

"It makes you want to live more simply.''

Among the highlights of his mission were a 6½-hour spacewalk and becoming the first Canadian astronaut to use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to perform a so-called cosmic catch, snagging a SpaceX cargo capsule.  

Saint-Jacques said he wasn't having trouble adapting mentally since his return but is still adjusting physically to life on Earth.

He said space flight affects nearly every part of the body, from blood circulation to his head to the bottoms of his feet, which had become soft and smooth after months of not bearing his weight.

He said his balance is improving, although he's still suffering from dizziness and a kind of light-headedness that he described as "space fog.''

"You lose the sense of gravity [in space], and that completely confuses the brain,'' he said.

'A Canadian hero'

Saint-Jacques was greeted on Wednesday by federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, who described him as "a Canadian hero.''

Bains highlighted the importance of the research that Saint-Jacques conducted in space, and its ability to help people on Earth.

Researchers were able to measure his vital signs through a "smart shirt'' bio-monitor that has implications for long-distance medical care, as well as study the effects of zero gravity, which is similar to what's experienced by bedridden patients, Bains said.

"Your work not only inspires Canadians, it truly benefits all of humanity,'' he said.

With files from ​The Canadian Press


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