When Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques blasts into orbit next week atop a Russian rocket, his family back on Earth will be getting help from the highest level of the Canadian government.
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, a former astronaut who last travelled into orbit on the space shuttle Endeavour in 2009, plans to visit the Russian launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan for Saint-Jacques’s liftoff on Dec. 3.
Canadian officials familiar with the visit say in addition to representing Canada as head of state, Payette will also have a formal role as Saint-Jacques’s Casualty Assistance Calls Officer. The role typically involves liaising between the astronaut’s family and different governments in the event of any problems on launch day.
Saint-Jacques, 48, is married with three children.
The Prime Minister’s Office is expected to release more details about Payette’s trip on Monday.
Payette was appointed governor-general in July 2017, but her role in helping the family pre-dates the appointment, according to one Canadian official.
Saint-Jacques’s launch to the International Space Station — his first space voyage — is set for 6:30 a.m. ET on Dec. 3.