David Saint-Jacques in space
Photos courtesy of Canadian Space Agency and NASA

Out of this World Fitness

PSP providing fitness support to Canadian astronauts on earth and in space.

Rockets roared and in December 2018 Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut, David Saint-Jacques soared into space and on to the International Space Station for a mission from December 2018 to June 2019. Watching from Earth at the CSA far below was François Lalonde, PhD in exercise physiology, a researcher seconded from Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare (CFMWS)’s Personnel Support Program (PSP) Human Performance Research & Development (HPR&D) team to support the CSA’s mission team. 

CFMWS’s PSP staff have been helping select and prepare Canadian astronauts for space since 2016 when the last Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign took place. PSP’s HPR&D team was responsible for the design and conduct of the physical aspects of the selection process. The team, under the direction of Pat Gagnon, PSP Senior Research & Development Manager, designed the various physical fitness tests, training sessions, realistic-job-preview scenarios and physical assessments that the candidates were subjected to during two distinct selection periods. 

They have also been responsible for helping to maintain the fitness of Canadian astronauts training to go into space, and now they are actually monitoring and helping maintaining the fitness of a Canadian in space. Lalonde and CSA’s Natalie Hirsh, specialist for astronaut exercise and nutrition, have been in regular contact since December with the International Space Station (ISS) and David Saint-Jacques, monitoring his fitness and providing fitness regimes. Exercise plays a crucial role in a long duration space mission and therefore represents 2 hours in an astronaut’s daily schedule. The goals of exercise are to maintain health (e.g.: muscle mass/strength; heart function, body weight and bone density) and to maintain operational readiness.

The role PSP plays with CSA clearly demonstrates the level of experience, expertise and knowledge that the PSP team, that supports the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), can bring to bear. The PSP human performance and fitness delivery team helps prepare CAF personnel for the physical rigours of today's complex and demanding operational environments. This includes fitness programs designed especially for Navy, Army and Air Force tactical athletes to help optimize their fitness and operational effectiveness.

“It is an amazing experience to use the skills and knowledge I have used to keep CAF members and the CAF Triathlon team fit and healthy, to make sure our Canadian astronauts are ready for the demands of space.” – François Lalonde, Ph.D.

During his assignment on the International Space Station, astronaut David Saint-Jacques conducted a series of scientific experiments and tested new technologies while also supporting critical operations and maintenance activities, including robotics and performing a spacewalk. On December 3, 2018, at 6:31 a.m. ET, CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques flew to the International Space Station. The successful landing on June 24, 2019, at 10:47 p.m. ET, marks the end of the longest Canadian astronaut mission to date (204 days).