'That first sight, that first sunrise, I will never forget,' Canada's newest astronaut says

David Saint-Jacques, Canada's newest astronaut, gives reporters his first account of being above the International Space Station, saying it has been a bit of an adjustment but there have been moments he will "never forget."

David Saint-Jacques answered questions from the media from the space station

David Saint-Jacques waits to have his Russian Sokol suit pressure checked in preparation for his launch aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft on Dec. 3, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Canadian astronaut spoke to reporters Monday for the first time since he went into space. (Aubrey Gemignani/NASA)

David Saint-Jacques, Canada's newest astronaut, on Monday gave reporters his first account of being aboard the International Space Station (ISS), saying it has been a bit of an adjustment but there have been moments he will "never forget."

Saint-Jacques, American astronaut Anne McClain and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko blasted off to the space station last Monday. 

Saint-Jacques told reporters via a video call that he already has been hard at work. On Thursday, he began a new set of experiments on perception, part of a study by York University in Toronto. It's expected that he will conduct about 200 experiments while aboard the ISS.

"Adjusting to space is a new thing for me," Saint-Jacques said of his first few days on the station. "But none of the training you get prepares you for weightlessness. So I do the typical rookie mistakes trying not to crash anywhere."

As for some of the challenges he has been facing, Saint-Jacques said that initially, he was struggling to determine which way was up and which was down. On Earth, it is determined in part by what is going on with your inner ear and your eyes. But, he says, he has been relying more on his vision to gather a sense of direction. He's also finding that he's a bit congested, an effect caused by being in microgravity.

Asked about his initial impression on looking back at Earth, Saint-Jacques said it's not something he'll soon forget.

"During the launch on the Soyuz, it was very familiar. We were all very, very busy doing our procedures in a spacecraft that looks exactly like the simulator, and then we got to zero gravity at engine cutoff and then it was all really strange, but it was nighttime," he said. 

"Then there was our first sunrise on orbit, and that was quite an emotional moment. As I looked out the window and this little blue crescent started to get brighter and brighter, I realized, wow this is actually the curve of the Earth. That first sight, that first sunrise, I will never forget."

This is the first time a Canadian has been in space since Chris Hadfield returned in 2013. It's also the first crewed mission since two astronauts were forced to abort less than a minute after launch on Oct. 11. 

"It is a very humbling privilege to be here," Saint-Jacques said.

Saint-Jacques will spend about 6½ months in space, returning in June.

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