Gord Binsted is Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Development and one of the lead researchers on a Canadian mission to the HI-SEAS Mars simulation habitat. (Contributed)

Okanagan scientist headed to ‘Mars’

UBCO’s Gord Binsted is one of six scientists heading to the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation Lab

While a trip to the red planet may still be years away, a team of Canadian researchers, including a scientist from UBCO, are headed to a simulated Mars habitat on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa at the end of November.

Their mission launches with the goal of designing and running experiments to measure the brain function of astronauts as they become fatigued in space.

The team of researchers heading to the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation lab (HI-SEAS) consists of scientists from UBC’s Okanagan campus, the University of Victoria and the University of Calgary.

“Crew time on space missions is planned right down to the minute,” explains Gord Binsted, dean in the faculty of health and social development at UBC Okanagan and one of the research leaders.

“The challenge for us is to create an experiment that is simple enough for any of the crew to perform within very tight time constraints, likely 20 to 30 minutes per day, while still generating valuable scientific data.”

READ MORE: RDCO board members to vote on climate emergency declaration

The researchers will be expected to continue the regular operations and maintenance of the habitat while they conduct scientific work, which Binsted said will help them understand the rigors astronauts will be under as they design their experiments.

The team will study a concept called cognitive fatigue, where the brain begins to make poor decisions the more tired it gets.

“Previous research has shown that the brain still functions normally if you’re a little fatigued. But at a certain point, the cumulative effect of over-fatigue means that the brain falls off a cliff and things like memory recall, mood and decision making are significantly impaired,” said Binsted. “Poor decision making can be fatal in the context of a space mission.”

Olav Krigolson, associate professor at UVic and co-lead researcher, said the team hopes to use an electroencephalogram (EEG) to map the electrical activity of the brain as it becomes fatigued, used to predict when the mind’s about to crash and lead to poor decisions.

“We’ll be using a simple but powerful consumer-grade EEG device called Muse and a smartphone to conduct our experiments,” said Krigolson. “Ten years ago, this kind of equipment would have been much larger and cost $100,000, but today we’re able to carry everything in one hand for just a few hundred dollars, making it ideal for a space mission.”

READ MORE: Two Kelowna schools qualify for robotics competition

The research team will be in the Mars simulation for eight days. While they won’t ever leave the surface of Earth, Binsted said the experience will be as real as it gets.

“The site is barren and completely isolated from civilization. There’s a 40-minute time delay on all communications, the six-member crew will be living in a 1,200-square-foot habitat and we’ll have to wear spacesuits to go outside,” explains Binsted. “It’s all pretty surreal.”

The team departs on November 28 and will be blogging their experience throughout the mission at www.destinationmars.ca.


@Niftymittens14
daniel.taylor@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

EDITORIAL: Managing wildfires

Wildfires have the potential to cause significant damage within our province

Floating concert to shake Shuswap Lake

Pair of bands booked to play floating concert at the Sea Store on Sept. 5

Video: New phase of Salmon Arm landfill progressing

Expansion expected to provide 20 years of landfill capacity

Defibrillator wanted for Salmon Arm pickleball courts

Club asks city to install unit in accessible location at Klahani Park

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Number of Kelowna-linked COVID-19 cases grows to 159

Interior Health reported four new cases region-wide on Friday, 18 remain active

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

Police watchdog deems Kelowna RCMP not responsible for man’s death

The man spoke to police after a car crash before leaving on foot; he was found dead six hours later

‘It’s just my job’: Off-duty Peachland paramedic saves choking girl downtown Penticton

Family vacationing in Penticton assisted by off-duty paramedic, who helps save 13-year-old

Most Read