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

BC Green Party leader visits Wet’suwet’en camps at heart of pipeline conflict

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada and First Nations

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Smithers only taxi company closing down

BV Taxi parking its cars at the end of January

Coastal GasLink repeats desire for meeting with hereditary chiefs

Coastal GasLink says they’re ready to meet with the hereditary chiefs at their convenience

B.C. Green Party interim leader to visit Wet’suwet’en camps

MLA Adam Olsen stands behind First Nations

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Most Read