KITCHENER -- Researchers in Waterloo are using a new technology that allows them to perform remote ultrasounds on astronauts on the International Space Station.

"The astronauts were coming back to Earth with stiffer arteries that were the equivalent of 10 to 20 years of aging while they're up in space for six months," said Richard Hughson, research chair in vascular aging and brain health at the University of Waterloo.

Astronauts need regular ultrasounds to monitor their health. Hughes said his team used to travel to France or Montreal to perform them.

"But COVID definitely decreased the travel that I'm allowed to be doing, of course," space research manager Danielle Greaves said. "I can't just be jet setting all over the place, it's just not a thing."

The Schlegel-UW Research Institute of Aging set up its own mission centre using remote controlled technology to get ultrasound images of astronaut's arteries.

"I was physically able to manipulate the robotic probe," Greaves said. "We've got these probes that would move using a joystick here on Earth."

The research team successfully connected with the International Space Station for the first time on Monday.

"It was a long time coming, so we're super excited that we were able to run it from here (in Waterloo)," Greaves said.

Hughson said having the technology in Waterloo allow him to continue his research on why astronauts arteries age so quickly in space. He also said it can help us learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle on Earth.

"The astronauts, they do exercise every day, or most days," Hughson said. "But, they also float for the rest of the day. So, it's the same on Earth. If you go to the gym first thing in the morning or go for a awl around the block first thing in the morning, and you spend the rest of the day sitting on the computer or watching television, that's not a really healthy lifestyle."

The next ultrasound is scheduled for April.