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

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Help keep customer service workers safe

Remember that people asking you to respect health guidelines are still people, says retail worker

Paul Manly reacts to Liberal throne speech

Manly says the Liberals need to back up their promises with action

Best of the City: Greek taverna takes top spot

Asteras in the Old City Quarter chosen Nanaimo’s Best Restaurant Overall

Best of the City: Making a house a home

Dodd’s Furniture, voted Best Furniture Store, settles into new location in Nanaimo

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Best of the City: This year’s winners

Nanaimo News Bulletin presents full results of our 2020 Best of the City readers’ survey

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Snuneymuxw artist brings aquatic designs to Nanaimo’s Beban Park pool

Work by artist Eliot White-Hill is being installed at the pool this month

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read