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Human Reflexes to be Studied in First Canadian Experiment on International Space Station

Press Release From: Canadian Space Agency
Posted: Friday, March 2, 2001

Saint-Hubert, Quebec, March 2, 2001 - Canada's first scientific experiment to be performed onboard the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled to launch March 8, 2001, on Space Shuttle Discovery. The Hoffman Reflex, or H-Reflex, experiment, directed by Dr. Douglas Watt of McGill University, will help us to understand exercise requirements for astronauts during extended spaceflights. It may also lead to improvements in managing balance disorders on Earth, particularly in the elderly.

"As a partner in the International Space Station project, Canada has access to this unique laboratory in space," said Mr. Barry Wetter, Director General of the Canadian Space Agency's Space Science Program. "The Canadian Space Agency facilitates access to the ISS and supports Canadian research that will impact on the health and safety of astronauts and benefit Canadians on Earth."

The H-Reflex experiment will examine changes in spinal cord excitability, an important element in the reflexes that keep us upright when we trip on the carpet or slip on ice. This is believed to decrease during long-duration space flight. The experiment uses the Hoffman Reflex technique, which is similar to the "knee tap" test in a doctor's office. The H-Reflex experiment replaces the doctor's hammer with an electrical stimulus to the nerve coming from the muscle and measures muscle activity electronically, providing far more accurate results.

"The H-Reflex experiment will study an issue that relates to the health and safety of astronauts," said Dr. Doug Watt. "It may lead to improvements in the efficiency of in-flight exercise and in the astronauts' ability to stand and walk immediately after returning to Earth, allowing easier escape in the event of a landing emergency."

The experiment will be performed over a period of several months. Its subjects will be the three ISS Expedition 2 crew members and at least one of the Expedition 3 crew. The experiment will be performed 3 times before launch; within the first 24 hours of flight onboard the Shuttle; approximately 6 days into the mission; approximately 12 days before reentry; on landing day; and 1, 2 and 4 days later.

This mission also marks another first. The Canadian Space Agency's Payload Mission Support Centre, based in Saint-Hubert, will provide ground support for Canada's H-Reflex experiment. The Centre has been developed by the Payload Certification, Integration and Operations Group, which is responsible for the operations of Canadian payloads while onboard the ISS. Centralizing payload verification and operations will allow the CSA to more efficiently support payload operations during the ISS era, eliminating the need for having CSA teams supporting operation for extended periods of time at NASA sites.

About the CSA

Established in 1989 and situated in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, the Canadian Space Agency coordinates all aspects of the Canadian Space Program. Through its Space Knowledge, Applications and Industry Development business line, the CSA delivers services involving: Earth and the Environment; Space Science; Human Presence in Space; Satellite Communications; Generic Space Technologies; Space Qualification Services and Awareness. The Canadian Space Agency is at the forefront of the development and application of space knowledge for the benefit of Canadians and humanity.

Funding for this project was provided for in the February 2000 budget and is therefore built into the existing financial framework.

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Backgrounders on the H-Reflex experiment and the Payload Mission Support Centre are available at the following addresses :

http://www.espace.gc.ca/whatsnew/releases/backgr/2001/010302-1.asp

http://www.espace.gc.ca/whatsnew/releases/backgr/2001/010302.asp

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