NASA's historic final mission of its 30-year space shuttle program may be delayed a day or two because of weather, but regardless of when the Atlantis launches, it will be delivering a customized, cutting-edge cardiovascular ultrasound system to the International Space Station.
The Vivid q is, according to GE Healthcare, a compact, lightweight diagnostic ultrasound system roughly the size of a laptop. It has been designed to image and assess cardiac performance in space, and to investigate the association between lengthy space missions and the weakening of astronauts' heart muscles.
The crew will also participate in the Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study to determine whether high-intensity, low-volume exercise can minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function in the crew.
In March, 3M and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency announced they'd be installing the Littmann Scope-to-Scope Tele-Auscultation System on the International Space Station to enable physicians to listen to the heartbeats of space travelers. Presumably, the Vivid q will replace not just the 10-year-old ultrasound previously used, but eventually the high-tech stethoscope, too.