The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-11 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Anne McClain, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko‚Äé and CSA astronaut David Saint Jacques. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Canadian astronaut lifts off on Russian rocket to International Space Station

The last Canadian astronaut to visit the space station was Chris Hadfield, who was on a five-month mission that ended in May 2013

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques blasted through the skies over Kazakhstan early Monday in what appeared to be a seamless launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station.

The 48-year-old doctor and astronaut lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Anne McClain of NASA and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

The launch of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft appeared to go exactly as planned at the precise liftoff time of 6:31 a.m. Eastern.

“We have liftoff,” a commentator said on NASA television as the rocket roared into the sky under 930 pounds of thrust and a speed of 1,770 kilometres per hour. “Everything looking good, vehicle is stable — good first stage performance.”

The crew reported that all went well in those critical initial minutes after liftoff and were safely in orbit.

Back on Canadian soil, a crowd monitored the launch from the Canadian Space Agency in Longueuil, Que., as the rocket began its roughly six-hour transit to the space station.

RELATED: US, Russian astronauts safe after emergency landing in October

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains praised the successful takeoff and said the mission offers an exciting opportunity for scientific research and developments that could have broad applications, in such things as robotics and aging.

“Space represents a lot of opportunities for a lot of Canadians,” he said at the agency office. “It really is inspirational what David represents…today is an incredible day in space.”

Astronaut Jenni Sidey-Gibbons echoed the message, saying Saint-Jacques was a special role model for her and other young people who may be considering a future in space.

“That was particularly important for me when I was growing up and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Canada’s early space program and, kind of, the heroes that pushed that forward,” she said. “It’s incredible.”

It was the first manned Russian rocket launch since a dramatic aborted Soyuz failure in October.

RELATED: Canadian astronaut who flew to space but faced biggest challenges on solid ground

On Oct. 11, a rocket failure forced a Soyuz capsule carrying two astronauts to abort and make an emergency landing.

Russia suspended all manned space launches pending an investigation before giving the green light Nov. 1.

Saint-Jacques has spent years training for the six-month mission, which was originally scheduled for Dec. 20 but was moved up after the aborted Soyuz launch.

Aboard the station, he will conduct a number of science experiments, with some focusing on the physical effects of the weak gravity astronauts experience in orbit as well as how to provide remote medical care.

Former astronaut Robert Thirsk said the schedule will be especially busy for the trio.

“Every five-minute increment of our life is scheduled, and that will be the same for David also,” he said at the space agency office. “The challenge for him will be to pace himself to accomplish the work that’s expected of him.”

It was expected the crowd on the ground watching the liftoff in Kazakhstan would include members of Saint-Jacques’ family as well as Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, herself a former astronaut.

Payette, who completed missions to the space station in 1999 and 2009, had said the most dangerous moments come immediately following the launch as the rocket passes through several “critical zones” on its way into space.

The last Canadian astronaut to visit the space station was Chris Hadfield, who was on a five-month mission that ended in May 2013.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Better COVID-19 testing results needed in the north

Former senior Northern Health official also wants work camps shut down

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Northern Health preparing ‘for a changing situation’ in response to COVID-19

The health authority is taking a number of measures to free up hospital capacity where possible

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Northwest Regional Airport says ridership extremely low amid COVID-19

The airport has enacted enhanced sanitary measures and reduced flights

World COVID-19 morning update: Olympics delayed one year; 12,000 health care workers infected

Comprehensive world news update: Lockdown in UK showing signs of hope

Newspapers are safe to touch, World Health Organization confirms

Just make sure to wash your hands as you would after touching any surface or object

‘It’s up to us: Recently-returned B.C. couple urges Canadians to take COVID-19 seriously

Garrett Kucher and Tory Apostoliuk make it home after almost a week of lockdown in Spain

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

Canada will make sure masks sent by China meet quality standards: Trudeau

Chinese Embassy tweeted that China was sending 30,000 medical masks along with gowns, gloves and goggles

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

Most Read