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.

Just Posted

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns says Scheer’s resignation not surprising

Pressure is on NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, as the lone major party leader remaining in the opposition

Ucluelet Aquarium celebrates “best” season to date

“We had some wonderful, really engaged visitors,” said curator Laura Griffith Cochrane.

Algae bloom kills over 200k farmed fish near Tofino

“We’re trying to rebuild fish stocks in Clayoquot Sound and it is disheartening to hear of this news.”

BC Transit plan rolls through public process in Tofino and Ucluelet

“I’m thankful that the residents on the Coast are allowing this process to continue on.”

Ucluelet cancels Harbour Lights Sail Past

“Of course it’s disappointing. It’s one of my favourite community events.”

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

Owner surrenders dogs chained up outside among scrap metal, garbage to BC SPCA

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

B.C. plane crash victim identified; witnesses describe ‘explosion’

He was a flight instructor, charter pilot and owned an airstrip before leaving Alberta

Most Read