Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques begins final training for ISS mission

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques is in Russia to prepare for his mission to the International Space Station in December. flies his first mission to the International Space Station in November, xxand this is the gruelling physical and mental training program he's going through to get ready for it.

He will be the crew's doctor on the space station during his 6-month stay

David Saint-Jacques will become the ninth Canadian to travel to space. (Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)

For Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, it's all about preparation as he continues his training four months before he blasts off into space.

Saint-Jacques, 48, is currently in Moscow along with U.S. astronaut Anne McClain and Russian Oleg Kononenko, who will join him on board a Soyuz aircraft when it launches for the International Space Station from Kazakhstan on Dec. 20.

"The goal is to get to the day of the launch with a clear mind and the confidence you have full possession of your faculties," he said in an in-person interview with The Canadian Press on Thursday.

"I like the mountain analogy. Right now, I'm climbing Everest. If you ask a climber who is two-thirds up Everest if he is excited about soon getting to the top... no. He is concentrated. He doesn't want to trip up, doesn't want to get caught in his rope."

The Quebec native, who will become the ninth Canadian to travel to space, will serve as a co-pilot for the Soyuz capsule and, because of his medical training, will be the crew's doctor on board the station during the six-month stay.

Saint-Jacques is expecting stiff challenges during gruelling training tests Friday.

It's one of the few areas Russia and Canada are still co-operating, as relations remain frosty. 2:45

"At the beginning, you don't know what to do...but finally you get better and at the end you survive almost everything they throw at you, and you're ready," he said.

An astronaut since 2009, Saint-Jacques was named to the mission in 2016.

Trained as both an engineer and a doctor, Saint-Jacques will be the first Canadian aboard the space station since Chris Hadfield spent five months on it in 2012 and 2013.

McClain, who also will be flying into space for the first time, said she is happy to be doing so with her Canadian teammate.

"I knew David before I was assigned to this flight and I was very happy when I got the assignment with him," she told The Canadian Press in a separate interview. "And I've gotten to know him even better over the past few years. And I think the most important aspect of a crew is trust — and I have come to trust David both professionally and personally.

He's got an effervescent personality that tends to draw everyone in.- NASA's Doug Wheelock

"All of our lives are in each other's hands in the Soyuz and I trust him to do the right thing. And personally, I can rely on him for anything that comes up in my own life."

Doug Wheelock, the NASA director of operations at the Moscow space facility, also had kind words for Saint-Jacques.

"He's a smile with legs, so David is just a joy to have on our team here," he said.

Canada's next astronaut to walk in space will be David Saint-Jacques, adding to the growing list of accolades for the Quebec City native. An engineer, physician and astrophysicist, Saint-Jacques also has his commercial pilot's license and speaks five languages. The National traveled to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston for an up close look at the making of an astronaut 10:15

"He's got an effervescent personality that tends to draw everyone in...David has been just a real jewel for us."

Wheelock said being in space is "like a ballet on fingertips."

"David is very well-tuned, he's got the hands of a surgeon, so he's got a very light, very commanding touch on the control systems and he'll be a great space flyer," he added.

Saint-Jacques will celebrate his 49th birthday on the space station Jan. 6.