"Canadian-Made" Science Kicks into High-Gear

The International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

It's sometime after dinner and you're walking down the sidewalk at dusk when a steady, brilliant point of light arcs across the sky. Moving in front of the background stars unlike any airplane, it's too slow to be a shooting star and too bright to be an ordinary satellite.

Believe it or not, it's possible that what you're looking at is actually a science lab in space, where some of the construction, staff and science experiments onboard are "Made in Canada".

Spanning the dimensions of five NHL hockey rinks and reflecting sunlight from half-a-million kilograms of solar panels and titanium back to you on the sidewalk, the International Space Station (ISS) is the result of more than 12 years of high-flying construction, 370 km overhead.

Over the next few months and beyond, Canadian experiments will help give new insight into the dangers of radiation exposure and the effects of the weightless environment of long-duration space missions.

What's more, many of those experiments will get done on the watch of the station's first-ever Canadian commander, Chris Hadfield.

In charge of history's largest spaceship

In March 2013, Hadfield will take charge of the 6-person crew of science specialists and engineers. As well as overseeing the Space Station's daily operations, Hadfield will also work on dozens of experiments, including five Canadian projects:

  • BCAT-C1 will disperse micro-scale particles in a special liquid, keeping the particles from settling as they would on Earth, and providing new insights into everything from polishing silicon to filtering fruit juice.

  • BP Reg will monitor astronauts' blood pressure to predict the risk of fainting (and taking a possibly crippling fall) back on Earth after long-duration spaceflights.

  • Microflow is a miniaturized version of a new technology that could provide rapid biological sample analysis to test for everything from infections to cancer markers on space missions far from medical facilities, as well as in remote communities on Earth.

  • Radi-N2 will give a better picture of astronauts' exposure to potentially dangerous neutron radiation.

  • Vascular is studying the impact of long-duration spaceflight on our blood vessels and offer insights into how bed-ridden patients on Earth are affected by cardiovascular disease

While these experiments may eventually improve life on Earth, they'll first be tested on board the space station, where there are 16 sunsets and sunrises a day as it travels around our planet at 28,000 km/h.

So next time you see an unmistakably bright "star" cruising over your town, think about all the Canadian science, technology and people aboard the high-speed laboratory, coming soon to a sidewalk near you...

You can find out ahead of time when the ISS will be over your town next by visiting this page.