While there has been a great emphasis on the fact that currently STS-132 will be the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis, there is another almost forgotten aspect of this mission – the Canadian aspect. This mission will be utilizing many Canadian elements.
Canada’s DEXTRE, the multi-armed robot was transported to the International Space Station onboard Endeavour on the STS-123 mission that launched in March of 2008. During this mission Atlantis will bring Dextre a new work platform that will give the robot repairman a place to store tools and materials.
As with every flight to the International Space Station, the Canadarm2 will play a large part in accomplishing key mission objectives. This time around the robotic arm will assist in moving the Russian Mini Research Module 1, (also known as the Rassvet Module).
Canada has played a large role in the American space program for the past 30 years. The robotic arm was first used on the second space shuttle mission, STS-2, in November of 1981. Several Canadians have gone on to have extensive careers as astronauts flying with NASA including Chris Hadfield who flew on two space shuttle missions, he is currently working on the NASA NEEMO underwater mission and Julie Payette who flew on the STS-127 mission in July of 2009. The Canadian Space Agency has contributed greatly to the robotic elements of the International Space Station in the form of the Canadarm2, Dextre and the Mobile Servicing System.
A new life sciences experiment, HYPERSOLE, will be jointly conducted between the Canadian Space Agency and the University of Guelph and will study the cutaneous sensitivity in an astronaut’s feet before and after this mission. This experiment is designed to provide a better understanding of the relationship between the sense of touch and balance control – by tickling the astronauts feet with filaments and vibration devices. This research is critical to help astronauts keep their balance when they step foot on other worlds.
Canada’s APEX-CSA2 (short for Advanced Plant Experiments on Orbit) is an ongoing experiment. 24 white spruce seedlings were transported to the ISS in April and are scheduled to be returned when Atlantis returns. The plants have been growing in space with the incubator controlling the lighting conditions, temperate and atmospheric composition. Researchers have been monitoring their growth using video cameras.