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U of S student to “Mars”

University of Saskatchewan graduate student Doug Campbell, who dreams of a career in space, is currently on a “space mission” to Mars, simulated deep in the Utah desert.


“I am looking for opportunities to build my skills and resume for the next time the Canadian Space Agency puts out a call for astronauts,” said the master’s student in biomedical engineering.

University of Saskatchewan graduate student Doug Campbell

His two-week mission simulation at the Mars Desert Research Station ranges from growing his own food to doing outdoor explorations in a spacesuit.

Campbell has been selected to join a two-year scientist-astronaut training program based in the United States that will help him prepare for venturing into outer space research, once space flight becomes more accessible. The simulation at the research station is one of the last steps before completing his training in August.

He works in a landscape that is an actual geologic Mars analog — minus the dangerous atmosphere. The station is owned by the Mars Society, which supports Earth-based research for human space exploration, and has received some funding from the Musk Foundation.

Along with 19 other candidates from around the world, Campbell has also been through sea and land survival, high-gravity flight training, and hypoxia training (adapting to perform with reduced oxygen). The training is funded by the non-profit educational organization SeaSpace Exploration & Research Society through its PHEnOM (Physiological, Health, and Environmental Observations in Microgravity) project.

The “full Mars” experience in the Utah desert tests Campbell and his four fellow crew members on teamwork, and on research and interpersonal skills in a stressful environment. A mix of Americans and Canadians, the crew includes experts in health, geology, and engineering.

“We have to be entirely self-sufficient for two weeks, rationing our own food, water and supplies,” said Campbell. “But we can contact mission control off-site if we need to do so.”  

As the science officer on the mission, Campbell oversees the crew’s science work, ensuring that projects move along and that data are collected.

Campbell has invented and is currently testing a waterless dishwasher as a special part of his space simulation. His device holds promise for making astronauts’ lives easier when space travelling.

"We take water for granted on Earth,” he said. “Dishwashing is a luxury crews on Mars would likely not have because there is no water available.”

Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan
Achieving a Safe & Prosperous Future Through Engineering & Geoscience