After more than six months in space, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques says adapting back to life on Earth is going as well as he could have hoped.
Speaking from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston on Friday, Saint-Jacques told reporters he didn’t feel any pain but had major problems with balance and nausea after touchdown in Kazakhstan late Monday. His condition has steadily improved in the four days since.
“It’s going well — with each heartbeat, if you will,” Saint-Jacques said. “Some people have tremendous pain, what I had problems with was balance — I felt incapable of standing at first.”
Those symptoms have slowly subsided.
“I don’t feel normal, but I can walk around, I started to run,” he added. “Gravity has become my friend again.”
Saint-Jacques, 49, set a Canadian record for longest single space flight at 204 days.
Among the highlights, he took part in a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk and became the first Canadian astronaut to use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to perform a so-called “cosmic catch” to snag a SpaceX cargo capsule.
Saint-Jacques will now be monitored closely by specialists in the gym to help him regain his muscle tone, cardio fitness, and endurance. He will also undergo a separate series of tests for research purposes, to measure how the human body reacts to space flight — common among returning astronauts.
Like ‘waking up from a dream’
He has been cautious and taking things slowly, he said, spending time in the pool and taking baths.
“My kids have been making fun of me because they think I’m a bit like a baby, who needs a hand to walk, who needs help with everything, whose a bit distracted,” Saint-Jacques joked. “My oldest son compares me to his younger sisters.”
Despite more than six months in space, the sojourn seems like a bit of a blur just days after leaving his orbital home.
“It’s like waking up from a dream,” Saint-Jacques explained. “I haven’t been able to integrate it into my reality, I think it’ll be months or years before I can really digest the experience.”
While in space, he did take several opportunities between a hectic schedule to observe a full orbit of the Earth.
“It doesn’t make you feel small, on the contrary, it makes you feel part of something huge, which is the power of the human mind to expand our world, to expand our perspective,” Saint-Jacques said. “It was a powerful moment.”
Saint-Jacques said reuniting with his wife and hugging his children brought him the greatest pleasure upon his return to Houston.
After months in a confined space, Saint-Jacques said he’s looking forward to eventually taking a nighttime stroll among the masses in Montreal and sitting around a camp fire at the cottage.
Saint-Jacques, an engineer, astrophysicist and family doctor, is expected to return for a visit to the Canadian Space Agency next month.