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Why do we conduct science experiments in space?

Science is our quest for more knowledge about the world and ourselves. For thousands of years, humanity has pushed boundaries in its search to learn more about our place in the universe.

Canadian science on the International Space Station

Canada's participation in the International Space Station (ISS) allows our scientists to access the unique space environment and conduct cutting-edge experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory to:

  1. prepare for deep-space destinations
  2. use the knowledge obtained to improve our quality of life on Earth

Did you know that many science experiments are being conducted on the ISS at any given time? Why do we do science in space? (Credit: Canadian Space Agency) (Transcript)

Preparing for deep-space destinations

As space agencies from all over the world are looking to propel humanity further into the solar system, Canada's space science community continues to conduct research aboard the ISS.

We want to better understand the risks associated with human space flight—and help find countermeasures and treatments—to identify, characterize, and mitigate the effects on astronauts' health in order to make space travel safer.

Missions to the Moon and Mars mean longer trips and more risks for astronauts, including:

Using the knowledge obtained to improve our quality of life on Earth

Studying the way our body changes in space help us understand the impacts of reduced levels of physical activity and issues that affect older adult populations on Earth.

Living in weightless conditions changes the human body in many ways. The effects observed in astronauts are similar to accelerated aging and health problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Studying the human body in space for six months gives us data that would take years to gather on Earth. New information gained in space contributes to improved quality of life on Earth.

Canadian scientists use space to study our bones, heart, blood vessels and brain. Their experiments have produced findings that can help people suffering from balance problems, such as seniors; osteoporosis; cardiovascular disorders; and Type-2 diabetes.

How does space affect the human body?

How does space affect the human body - infographic
How does space affect the human body? - Text version

How does space affect the human body?

Space has tremendous effects on the human body! As we prepare for journeys to more distant destinations like Mars, humankind must tackle these risks to ensure safe travel for our modern explorers.

The impacts of microgravity mirror aging and the complications of a sedentary lifestyle. By studying astronauts' health, we also help people on Earth.

  • Blood
    • Blood cell production in the bone marrow is affected. Reduced red blood cells can cause anemia. Low white blood cell count leaves the body vulnerable to infection and is also linked with increased sensitivity to radiation.
  • Radiation
    • Radiation doses are much higher. Overexposure can cause cataracts in the eyes, damage DNA, and increase the risk of cancer.
  • Brain
    • Astronauts' sense of perception and orientation can become confused. They sometimes misinterpret the direction and speed of their movements. Some even experience "space sickness."
  • Heart & blood vessels
    • Blood vessels stiffen and age faster, and astronauts can develop insulin resistance, which may lead to Type 2 diabetes. These factors increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Muscles & nervous system
    • Muscles lose mass and strength. Reflexes slow down and exercise tends to be less effective in space.
  • Bones
    • When they don't bear weight, bones lose density and strength. While adults past age 50 typically lose about 1% each year, astronauts in space can lose up to 1.5% of their bone mass each month.

Space has tremendous effects on the human body! By studying astronauts' health, we also help people on Earth. (Credit: CSA)

Learn more about Canadian science on the ISS

On average, there are 200 international space experiments on board the ISS at any given time. Canadian universities and companies in the space community are involved in advancing our knowledge of health and life sciences in space.

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