As Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques readies for Canada’s longest mission to the International Space Station (ISS), he and his crewmates are preparing to use Canadian space robots.
The robots keeping the ISS running by replacing parts like cameras, computers, batteries and switches. “To live such an extraordinary adventure is a rare privilege and promises to be a powerful, humbling experience,” Saint-Jacques says.
As space becomes more accessible, Canadarm2 and Dextre catch and unload more and more cargo ships delivering supplies to astronauts and even repair themselves in space. Canada is now exploring ways to equip future space robots with artificial intelligence. Giving robots a degree of autonomy will be critical for new missions into deep space, the CSA says.
Saint-Jacques, an engineer, astrophysicist and medical doctor, will conduct Canadian science experiments during his mission, which launches Dec. 19 and returns in June. Canadarm2 and Dextre have inspired technologies that improve health care on earth:
• NeuroArm, the first robot capable of performing surgery inside a magnetic resonance machine
• IGAR, an advanced platform for use in the early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer
• Modus V, a robotic digital microscope that could help neurosurgeons perform minimally invasive clinical procedures with greater safety and efficiency.
In exchange for Canada’s robotic contribution, eight Canadian astronauts have flown to space to date. The last one was Chris Hadfield, who became the commander of the station.
Top photo: David Saint-Jacques and his crewmates Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos) and Anne McClain (NASA) take training in the Soyuz simulator in Star City. Bottom photo: David Saint-Jacques. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)