Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Tech Could Provide Health Care to Astronauts on Deep-Space Missions

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Tech Could Provide Health Care to Astronauts on Deep-Space Missions

Article excerpt

New tech key to long-haul space health care


MONTREAL - A new Canadian technology could be the key to ensuring an astronaut's health and well-being as they embark on deep space missions.

Researchers at St. Mary's Hospital in Montreal are part of a team that is developing a cutting-edge medical tool designed to provide remote care to astronauts who are likely to be cut off from home as space exploration evolves.

The tool could also have usefulness beyond far-flung outer space missions: researchers think it could make first-world health care available worldwide.

"You're now getting (with the tool), at the very least, the assurance that a patient is being seen and their condition is being assessed based on all the knowledge available," said Michel Lortie, systems engineer at St. Mary's Research Centre and part of the development team.

It sounds like something out of science fiction -- a virtual medical consultant combining the knowledge of a psychologist, occupational therapist, family doctor and emergency-room physician all in one.

The tool is dubbed the advance crew medical system (ACMS) and is comprised of small body sensors that are attached to an astronaut to monitor their health. Using information gathered in real time and comparing it to previous medical history, the tool can provide treatment instructions and advice to the crew medical officer.

The technology is important as exploration moves beyond the International Space Station to long-haul space missions. For example, a trip to Mars or an asteroid far from Earth presents a different set of challenges: isolation, weightlessness, psychological stress and radiation among the possible obstacles.

Lortie says the tool can be constantly updated with current information whether it is on a Mars-bound shuttle or in a rural village on Earth. In the latter case, the tool could prove useful if there are no medical professionals in the vicinity. …

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