WATERLOO, Ont. (Monday, Oct. 25, 2010) - Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dr. Robert (Bob) Thirsk will visit Waterloo Region this Thursday to share his experiences from last year’s sixth-month expedition aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with keen students and seniors.

At 10 a.m., Thirsk will give a presentation at The Village of Winston Park retirement home to seniors who participated in the Get Fit For Space Challenge. Over the course of Expedition 20/21, Thirsk issued the challenge to Canadians to become more physically active, encouraging participants to walk 340 km - the distance to the International Space Station (or acquire equivalent kilometres for other forms of physical activity).

Seniors in the retirement homes associated with the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging took up the challenge and the program was awarded the International Council on Activity and Aging’s 2009 Industry Innovation Award. Top Walker Irv Manske, a 94-year-old who logged more than 860 km, will be onstage Thursday to meet Thirsk and receive congratulations for his inspirational participation in the program.

Thirsk looks forward to meeting his most ardent supporters and sharing lessons learned in space that can lead to healthier aging for those on Earth.

During his six-month stay aboard the ISS, Thirsk and his crewmates participated in an ongoing research study led by Richard Hughson, professor of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo. The CCISS (Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Control on return from the ISS) study investigates the effects of weightlessness on the human body.

“Long duration space flights accelerate the normal aging process and mimic the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, leading to deteriorations in health,” said Hughson. “We want to better understand these mechanisms and how best to counter these effects with daily physical exercise.”

Hughson will join Thirsk for the presentation, which will include an announcement of Hughson as the new Schlegel Research Chair in Vascular Aging and Brain Health within the Research Institute for Aging. The position will examine the role of healthy lifestyle interventions of exercise and nutrition so that more people can reach older age in good physical condition with their full cognitive capabilities.

In the afternoon, Thirsk will deliver a free public lecture at the University of Waterloo. The Faculty of Applied Health Sciences 2010 Hallman Lecture will feature video from Expedition 20/21 with live narration, followed by a question-and-answer session and highlights of the CCISS study by guest Richard Hughson. Students and the general public are invited to attend the talk, which runs from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., at the Humanities Theatre in the J. G. Hagey Hall of the Humanities. No registration required. Details are available at www.ahs.uwaterloo.ca/hallman.

About Dr. Robert Thirsk

In 2009, Dr. Robert Thirsk made history as the first Canadian to fly onboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which launched on May 27 and landed on Dec. 1 in the plains of Kazakhstan. He is the first Canadian to stay in space for such an extended period and holds the Canadian record for the longest spaceflight, totalling more than 125 million kilometers over his six-month stay (188 days). He orbited the Earth more than 2,900 times, spent more than 230 hours exercising and conducted about 236 hours of scientific research. For details on the mission, visit the Canadian Space Agency website at: www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/missions/expedition20-21.

About Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging

The Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging, launched in 2005 in partnership with the University of Waterloo, offers direct links to research and expertise on aging, along with access to ten seniors' residences across southwestern Ontario. These communities, housing about 3,000 seniors, provide a continuum of care, including independent living, retirement home living, assisted-living and long-term care. Research and program innovations developed here are then disseminated to all seniors' care agencies across the province, once proven in these research and learning environments. For more details, visit www.the-ria.ca.

About Waterloo

The University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's Technology Triangle, is one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities. Waterloo is home to 30,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students who are dedicated to making the future better and brighter. Waterloo, known for the largest post-secondary co-operative education program in the world, supports enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. For more information about Waterloo, visit www.uwaterloo.ca.


Michelle Douglas-Mills, communications manager, faculty of applied
health sciences, 519-888-4567 ext. 38345 or mdouglas@uwaterloo.ca

John Morris, Waterloo media relations, 519-888-4435 or jmorris@uwaterloo.ca

Waterloo news release no. 81

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