NASA mission managers met yesterday morning and gave space shuttle Discovery a GO for launch today at 4:50 p.m. eastern. The mission is a key one for the International Space Station and for Canada it’s an opportunity to conduct research and bring back experiments from the International Space Station.
Going up with Discovery is the Hypersole experiment a collaboration between the University of Guelph in cooperation with the Canadian Space Agency. Hypersole will measure of sensitivity of the soles of five of the astronauts aboard Discovery. Some astronauts experience sudden changes in skin sensitivity when in space. Results of the experiment will hopefully provide insights feet in the way we age. Results combined with existing studies should shed light on the aging process of our feet.
This is the second consecutive flight for Hypersole as three astronauts on space shuttle Atlantis on STS-132 in May participated as well.
Discovery will return two experiments from the station on this trip. In April of this ear space shuttle Discovery on STS-131 carried 24 Canadian white spruce seedlings which grew for 30 days before being harvested and frozen in a special solution. The experiment known as APEX-CSA2. Researches will analyze their DNA to help understand how trees make wood that are of benefit to the forestry industry. The experiment is led by Dr. Jean Beaulieu of Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Wood Fibre Centre in Quebec City in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency and NASA.
The other experiment being returned is VASCULAR. Recent advances in medicine have linked certain blood proteins and hormones to cardiovascular stress and disease. The Health Consequences of Long-Duration Flight experiment (VASCULAR) will see astronauts undergo blood tests before, during and after their spaceflights to look for these proteins and hormones, and particularly for any changes in their levels when they return from space. The astronauts will also have ultrasounds done that measure the elasticity of their arteries and veins before and after their flight. Dr. Richard Hughson of the University of Waterloo leads the VASCULAR science team and is funded by the Canadian Space Agency and supported by NASA. Dr. Hughson believes that his research in space can be used to test potential solutions for combating cardiovascular stress and disease for space travelers and everyday Canadians.
According the Canadian Space Agency Canada has flown nearly 50 science experiments on the Space Shuttle since STS-09 (41A) in 1983. These experiments have given rise to over 220 scientific papers on subjects such as: bone loss; back pain; eye-hand coordination; blood pressure; ageing; plant cell development; optics; the ozone layer; machine vision systems; crystal growth; metal diffusion; composite materials resistance and thin film formation.