The International Space Station: Canadian Perspective

If you are interested in space, like so many other people, you probably have heard about the International Space Station or the ISS. It is the single largest multi-nation space project that has ever been put into existence. A structure bigger than five hockey rinks hovering 400 KMs above our heads and circling the globe one every 90 minutes! Isn’t it amazing?

Well, it certainly amazes us!

Do you know, as of April 2021, 243 individuals from 19 different countries have been to the International Space Station? One of these countries includes Canada. In fact, Canada contributes a lot more to the ISS. In this article, we’ll try to understand the ultimate purpose of the mighty International Space Station and how Canada plays a role in it.

The International Space Station- Introduction

Before we see how Canada is involved in all this, let’s first try to understand what the ISS exactly is.

The International Space Station or ISS, if you don’t know, is a research laboratory that circles the earth in its lower orbit. As per the intergovernmental agreements and treaties that define its co-ownership, the ISS serves as a place to conduct experiments in the areas of astronomy, astrobiology, physics, meteorology, etc. Furthermore, ISS also provides a testing ground for spacecraft equipment and technology that might be necessary for future long-duration Mars and Moon missions.

Canada and the ISS

As we stated in the beginning, the International Space Station is a multi-nation project. And Canada is one of the five contributing countries. Other countries include the United States, Japan, Europe, and Russia.

But as a partnering country, how does Canada contribute to the ISS?

Canada has invested more than 2 billion USD to the International Space Station in the form of two cutting-edge robots called Canadarm2 and Dextre, plus a platform for transportation and storage called the Mobile Base System. Due to these contributions, Canada now has access to the research center for:

–        Performing various scientific experiments

–        Testing their new tech

–        And sending people onboard

To date, Canada has successfully conducted more than 20 different studies on the International Space Station. And some are still ongoing. These studies majorly focus on:

–        Studying the effects of traveling through space on human bodies to make some pre-assumptions on long-duration space travels in the future

–        Benefiting Canada as well as the humanity as a whole

Why Experiment in Space?

We come across a lot of people who think that investing in space projects is just a waste of time and money. However, it cannot be farther from reality. In fact, research in space has many benefits.

Here’s how Canadian science looks like at the International Space Station

The participation of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in the International Space Station has paved the way for our scientists to access one-of-its-kind space environment and thus conduct various cutting edge experiments in order to:

–        Get ready for some deep-space missions in the future

–        Improve the existing life on earth

Let’s take a look at how it’s being done.

Preparing for Future Deep-Space Missions

One of the very important missions for the Canadian Space Agency is to understand the dangers and risks involved with space travel. Living in space is very different from here on earth. It involves weightlessness, exposure to radiation, isolation, and other physical and mental issues. Thus, before we could further ourselves into the solar system, it’s important to have the knowledge of how it may impact the health of the people traveling and find ways to mitigate the negative effects. This is where the missions on ISS are contributing.

Improving the Existing Life on Earth

One of the most prominent benefits of research in space is that we can generate particular data within six months that would take years on earth. Living in space can change human bodies in various ways. Astronauts may experience accelerated aging and develop old age health problems very quickly.

Due to this, scientists get an opportunity to study various conditions much quickly And this gives them a chance to work on the solution at a faster pace. Due to these space experiments, we have already been able to work on conditions including cardiovascular disorders, type-2 diabetes, etc.

Canadian in Space

The Canadian Space Agency is the one that recruits astronauts to represent themselves on the earth as well as in space. Due to the contribution of Canada to the International Space Stations, the astronauts from CSA can visit the ISS and conduct various experiments for Canadian researchers who cannot be there themselves.

Some of the CSA astronauts that have contributed to the missions on ISS include:

1999: Julie Payette

2000: Marc Garneau

2001: Chris Hadfield

2006: Steve MacLean

2007: David Williams

2009: Julie Payette

2009: Robert (Bob) Thirsk became the first Canadian to live and work onboard the Station, spending 188 days in space.

2012–13: Chris Hadfield conducted a five-month expedition to the orbital outpost, becoming its first Canadian Commander in March 2013.

The Canadian Space Agency, until now, has recruited 14 astronauts. Of these, 10 have already retired. The rest four include Jeremy Hansen, Joshua Kutryk, Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons, and David Saint-Jacques. In the coming future, some of these astronauts are also supposed to travel to ISS.

What’s in the Future for the International Space Station?

The International Space Station carries a part of human history with it. The mission was launched in the year 1998 by NASA. And it took more than 13 years to construct the structure completely. Even after that, some small changes kept on happening as per the demands of various missions. Everything that has happened over the course to make the International Space Station what it is today is a legacy.

However, like any materialistic thing, the ISS too has an end. It has been circling the earth for more than 23 years now. But in 2024, the agreement between the contributing countries is approaching its expiration. As per the report, various agencies do have a plan to support the station for three to four more years. But what would happen beyond that cannot be said with certainty yet. The only thing that we can be sure of now is that it has been one of the biggest achievements of the human race to date.

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