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Thales and Université Laval to improve astronauts’ medical autonomy for future missions to Mars

Québec City, July 10, 2018 - A team of scientists from Université Laval's Faculty of Medicine and experts from Thales Research and Technology have been selected by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to develop a computerized medical condition knowledge base and mission-planning support tool. This tool will provide guidance to the CSA on technology needs to improve astronauts' medical autonomy in preparation for future missions to Mars.

Due to distance, a radio signal between Earth and the crew of a ship en route to Mars can be delayed by as much as 22 minutes. It is crucial for the crew to be able to rely on a decision support system that will guide them in diagnosing, treating and managing emergency medical conditions independently from the medical team on the ground. This tool will help define the requirements for such a system.

"The first phase of the project involved developing a list of medical emergencies to be prioritized," said project collaborator Dr. Neal Pollock, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval, researcher in hyperbaric medicine at the Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis hospital, CISSS Chaudière-Appalaches. «We developed a grid taking into account factors such as the probability of occurrence, the importance of rapid management, the potential impact on the continuation of the mission and the level of contagion.»

Over 100 medical conditions have been assessed, including heart attack, septic shock, pulmonary embolism, detachment of the retina, and perforation of an eye. "We've also included pathologies that have a higher probability of occurring in space, such as kidney stones and vision deficits caused by increased intracranial pressure," explained Dr. Patrick Archambault, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval and emergency physician at Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis Hospital, CISSS Chaudière-Appalaches.

In the coming months, the researchers will evaluate, organize and prioritize evidence-based knowledge to enable a crew to independently treat those medical emergencies in space. "We will have to pay particular attention to the equipment, skills and knowledge constraints necessary for medical autonomy in space exploration missions," added Dr. Caroline Rhéaume, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval and family physician at GMF-U Quatre-Bourgeois, CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale. 

«As a leading contributor to research and development in Canada, Thales is proud to support the CSA's preparation for a future mission to the red planet,» said Martin Rivest, Director of Thales TRT. «Using MYRIAD, an advanced multi-criteria decision support tool, we will be able to provide our medical colleagues at Université Laval and our partners a manageable way to prioritize medical conditions for medical autonomy in space exploration missions.»

The project's expected completion date is April 2019. 

About Thales 
The people we all rely on to make the world go round – they rely on Thales. Our customers come to us with big ambitions: to make life better, to keep us safer. Combining a unique diversity of expertise, talents and cultures, our architects design and deliver extraordinary high technology solutions. Solutions that make tomorrow possible, today.  From the bottom of the oceans to the depth of space and cyberspace, we help our customers think smarter and act faster - mastering ever greater complexity and every decisive moment along the way. With 65,000 employees in 56 countries, Thales reported sales of €15.8 billion in 2017.

About Thales Canada
A national leader in research and technology, Thales Canada combines its more than 50 years of experience with the talent of 1,800 skilled people located coast-to-coast. With revenues of$500 million, Thales Canada offers leading capabilities in the urban rail, civil aviation and defence and security sectors that meet the needs of customers' most complex requirements across every operating environment.
About Université Laval
Université Laval, located in the world heritage city of Québec, is the first French-language university in North America. One of Canada's top research universities, it is ranked 6th among the country's institutions of higher learning with a research budget of over$377 million last year. Université Laval boasts 3,730 professors, lecturers, and teaching staff who share their knowledge with some 43 000 students, including 25% at the graduate level.

Press Contacts:
Jean-François Huppé
Media Relations
Université Laval

Cara Salci
National Director, Public Affairs & External Communications