A Canadian astronaut on board the International Space Station (ISS), who is supporting University of Waterloo research during his mission, will respond to questions from university students in a live space-to-ground downlink Friday, February 15.
Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Chris Hadfield, who deployed to the ISS in a rocket launched from the plains of Kazakhstan on December 19th, will connect with the university via the downlink to be transmitted across approximately 370 km from outer space to Earth.
“This Canadian Space Agency mission presents exciting opportunities for us,” says Feridun Hamdullahpur, president & vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “The honour of being the first university to participate in the downlink connection and collaborating on research with Chris Hadfield while he is in space makes this event a unique milestone for the university and our students.”
Friday’s event, which begins at 11:30 a.m., is expected to attract nearly 700 attendees and will feature an in-person presentation by another Canadian Space Agency astronaut, Jeremy Hansen, who will provide a high-level overview of ‘Expedition 34/35’ and his experience as an astronaut. Dr. Richard Hughson, Schlegel Research Chair in Vascular Aging and Brain Health at the University of Waterloo, will then describe the work he is doing, with Hadfield as a research subject, to examine how zero-gravity affects the circulatory system. The Waterloo study will help researchers understand what factors might be involved in the hardening of arteries as people age.
Hughson is also monitoring Hadfield’s blood pressure while on the five-month mission in an effort to answer questions about why some astronauts are prone to fainting once they return to Earth after extended space flights.
“For the past 15 years, we’ve had the support of the Canadian Space Agency as we learned new details about the adaptation of the astronauts’ cardiovascular systems to space flight. We’ve been especially excited to see that these results provide insight into the normal process of aging and how exercise is so essential to good health,” said Dr. Hughson.
Sixteen University of Waterloo students ranging from undergrads to PhD students are prepared to pose questions to Hadfield during the 20-minute downlink which will follow the live presentations. Jaclyn Blacklock, a PhD candidate who explores work and health-related issues, plans to ask Hadfield how he is managing work-life balance during the mission.
Hadfield has been tweeting from space, most famously so far with fellow Canadian William Shatner who played Captain James T. Kirk in the original TV series Star Trek. Hadfield, who will be Commander of the space station starting in March, has conducted other downlink conversations with such institutions as hospitals and schools, and has provided photography of the view from space.
Hadfield was born in Sarnia and grew up in Milton, Ontario and is noted for having performed the first Canadian spacewalk in 2001, soaring over British Columbia as he attached Canadarm2 to the International Space Station. Later in that mission, he was at the controls of the Canadarm as it received Canadarm2’s launch cradle in “Canada’s first robotic handshake in space.”