Canadian astronaut says innovation could lead to medical advances and could help fight pandemics.
As millionaires compete for the stars, many quickly cast a shadow over the rich to spend money on spray drives into space instead of solving problems on Earth. But Canadian astronauts are reminding people that space exploration has the power to contribute to life-changing progress on our planet.
“It is arguable if we should go to Mars. I think that’s not the question. We might travel to Mars because it’s there and we want to explore,” said Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques said.
“But going to Mars will require an understanding of recycling. We will become masters of the air, water, and recycling, food production. It will help us on Earth.
In an interview with CBC News, the astronaut and family doctor said that while essentials such as healthcare, education, employment, and safety should always come first, he believes that ‘a small portion of our resources must also be devoted to dreaming big – through art, discovery, and science.
“This is how we progress,” he said. “If we only do what is essential, we might make progress. We do not change. The only way forward is to have a crazy dream about the blue sky. ”
Saint-Jacques’ on his mission dream often focused on trying to bring medicine to remote communities. Prior to joining the Canadian Space Program in 2009, he was a family physician in the fly-in Inuit community of Puvirnituq, in Nunavik, northern Quebec.
A recent paper published in Nature Medicine, co-authored by Saint-Jacques, highlights the ways in which space technology is advancing telemedicine and can be used to help prevent and monitor future pandemics.
One of the key examples documented in the paper is BioMonitor, a wearable technology that Saint-Jacques tried out during his 204-day mission aboard the International Space Station from 2018 to 2019.
While on his mission, the smart shirt continuously monitors Saint-Jacques’ heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, temperature, physical activity, and blood oxygen levels.
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