Astronauts on new mission dismiss safety concerns after Soyuz accident

“We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board,” the 54-year-old said.

Kononenko added that the crew would conduct a spacewalk on December 11 as part of the investigation into a mysterious hole that has caused an air leak on the ISS.

Anne McClain, a 39-year-old former military pilot, struck a similar note.

“We feel very ready for it,” she said.

Canada’s Saint-Jacques added that the Soyuz spacecraft was “incredibly safe,” noting it was “actually reassuring” to witness the October aborted launch from Baikonur.

The accident highlighted the “smart design of the Soyuz and the incredible work that the search and rescue people here on the ground are ready to do every launch,” the 48-year-old said.

Saint-Jacques joked that he had received so much training ahead of the flight “that I felt at the end that I could build a Soyuz in my backyard.”

Russia said last month the launch of the Soyuz rocket failed because of a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome, but officials insisted the spacecraft remains reliable.

Saint-Jacques will be the first Canadian astronaut to visit the space station since Chris Hadfield, who recorded a version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity classic aboard the ISS in 2013.

Canada’s governor general and former astronaut Julie Payette is expected to be among the dignitaries to watch Monday’s launch.

Of the trio set to reach the ISS six hours after blastoff, both Saint-Jacques and McClain will fly for the first time. Kononenko is beginning his fourth mission to add to an impressive 533 days in space.

NASA’s McClain was deployed to Iraq and has represented the United States women’s national rugby union team.

She has said that training to spacewalk was similar to rugby since it demands “grit, toughness, mental focus, and more”. 

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