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Medicine on Mars: B.C. innovators tackling how to keep astronauts healthy

To help keep astronauts healthy on Mars, scientists are looking at what they can learn from remote communities here on Earth.
CSA's Deep Space Health-care Challenge
The three innovators moving on to the second stage are Vancouver-based startup Texavie, North Vancouver-based Pulsence, and West Vancouver-based Optican Systems.

In advance of a human mission to Mars by 2030, Canadian innovators are developing technology to ensure the health of astronauts on the red planet.

Three B.C. organizations are semi-finalists in the "Deep Space Health-care Challenge" to develop technology to aid astronaut health that can also be applied in remote communities here on Earth.

The challenge, a collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and Impact Canada, comes as NASA receives final feedback on its 50 objectives that must be met to send astronauts to the Moon under Artemis missions to prepare for human exploration of Mars.

In total, 100 proposals to create technology to detect medical conditions within front-line workers in space were submitted to the CSA.

"We asked innovators to envision how it could go in space in the future. Twenty companies are moving forward in building their proof of concept. So, they will conduct tests in lab environments, [and] submit data," says Annie Martin, the CSA's operational space medicine project officer.

In April 2023, the finalists will demonstrate their prototypes in a simulated environment.

Hoping to be amongst them are the three B.C. semi-finalists: Vancouver-based startup Texavie, North Vancouver-based Pulsence, and West Vancouver-based Optican Systems.

And while a collaboration between a space agency and health care may seem random, Martin says there are similarities between what astronauts and remote communities face regarding access. This is especially true with the ongoing climate crisis.

"When there are medical evacuations, for example, because patients cannot be treated outside, they have to be evacuated in urban centres to receive appropriate care, in ensuring that communities have the right set of technologies, on-site diagnostic or on-site management of health to help reduce those medical evacuations."

Martin also notes that this collaboration has allowed for different innovative approaches to addressing a gap.

"It's amazing variety. It becomes interesting from a space agency point of view to see the expertise of Canadian innovators and then help us identify how as a green space agency, we could position Canadian innovators into embarking on endeavours of missions to the Moon and Mars, and who knows beyond?"

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