The Canadian Space Agency has shed some light on the kinds of experiments they have been conducting recently, along with the results of older research and what they have planned when the country’s newest astronaut David Saint-Jacques embarks on his first mission to the International Space Station.
Lately, Canadian-led research in space has mostly been dedicated to one area: better understanding the potential harmful bodily effects derived from staying in space for too long. If an astronaut remains in the ISS for an extended period, they risk muscle atrophy, weaker immune systems and lowered coordination. Scientific research and technology is helping space agencies all over the world understand what it means to stay in orbit.
The results gleaned from the experiments aboard the ISS can then be transferred to medical breakthroughs here on earth, offering a glimpse into how the human body reacts when subjected to new environments.
“Our government knows that investing in space technology and science aboard the International Space Station will have a direct and positive impact on the everyday lives of all Canadians,” said Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development. “As we look to take on more space-related missions, the health experiments announced today will not only keep our astronauts safer and healthier, but will advance health-related innovations to keep Canadians, on Earth, healthier as well.”
When Saint-Jacques heads to the ISS in November 2018, he will begin conducting an array of experiments with new scientific methods as well as a few biotechnological devices. He will constantly wear a device that measures his health while also testing out a new instrument known as a bio-analyzer, a piece of equipment capable of performing near real-time blood analysis.
Saint-Jacques will also conduct a few experiments. Immuno Profile will look into how an astronaut’s immune system functions over the course of an extended space trip, while Vascular Aging will study the impact of weightlessness, radiation and space-specific nutrition on a human’s cardiovascular system. The latter will look specifically into the onset of insulin resistance while in orbit.
There are a few current Canadian-led experiments happening on the ISS that Saint-Jacques will also lead. The Bio-Monitor is a monitoring system that includes a smart shirt meant to track vital signs and recognize risks to human health. The awesomely-named TBone is an experiment that uses advanced 3D imaging technology to measure bone density, structure and strength.
This isn’t the first time Canadians have conducted experiments aboard the ISS. Research from CSA astronauts has helped pioneer new medical breakthroughs, like the EVARM project conducted from 2002 to 2003. It measured how much radiation astronauts were exposed to during spacewalks, and the findings helped improve a radiation detector that is now used in over 1,000 cancer clinics worldwide.
The continued research by Saint-Jacques and other Canadian astronauts into how the body reacts to prolonged periods in orbit will only become more important as new space travel methods are discovered and perfected.
Elon Musk promised humans on Mars by 2024, but to get there safely it is more than likely the SpaceX founder will have to study findings from these Canadian experiments and technologies to see what happens to a normal person when they spend years in space.