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Astronaut hopeful shares tales of real life on fake Mars

Alberta-trained physicist to give talk on campus March 31 about experience in NASA's simulated training mission
March 28, 2016
The northern slopes of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano, where Ross Lockwood has participated in two Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) missions, resemble the red planet Mars. Photo courtesy of Ross Lockwood.

The northern slopes of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano, where Ross Lockwood participated in the second Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) missions, resemble the red planet Mars. Photo courtesy of Ross Lockwood

Campus community invited to attend Real Life on Fake Mars talk on March 31. Photo courtesy of Lucie Poulet.

Campus community invited to attend Real Life on Fake Mars talk on March 31. Photo courtesy of Lucie Poulet

Movie star Matt Damon and Ross Lockwood have something in common. They’ve both played the role of an astronaut.

In Lockwood’s case however, it was all for science. In 2014, he participated in the second mission of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS). For 120 days, he and five teammates lived and worked in a habitat dome located on the Mars-like northern side of Mauna Loa volcano. They were on the island of Hawaii to help answer the question: How will astronauts get along during years-long missions on the red planet?

Lockwood is a graduate from the University of Alberta with a PhD in condensed matter physics. He is visiting campus on March 31 to share his experiences as a NASA lab-rat as well as talk about his commitment to civilian training programs for astronaut hopefuls. His presentation is part of a lecture tour sponsored by the Canadian Association of Physics (CAP), which supports physics research and education in Canada.

Laura Mazzino, a postdoctoral scholar in the University of Calgary’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, has known Lockwood since their days as graduate students. She was instrumental in organizing the event. “I knew since last fall that I’d like Ross to visit our campus. He’s a natural science communicator and really enjoys sharing his research and experiences.”

Sharing 'Average Joe' stories of astronaut training 

“To be involved with HI-SEAS was such a unique opportunity,” adds Mazzino. “Ross is a great story-teller and I know everyone will enjoy his average Joe ‘astronaut-in-the-making’ perspective.”

Before his public talk on the evening of the 31st, Lockwood will give a 5 p.m. presentation to University of Calgary science students – also open to the campus community. Physics undergrads Cooper Duffin and Robin Williams are helping to organize Lockwood’s visit.

“We’re excited that Dr. Lockwood is coming to share his experiences with us,” says Duffin. “It will be great to hear first-hand about what it was like to be part of the NASA study.”

“The prospect of traveling to Mars and one day colonizing that planet is really appealing to people,” adds Williams. “We appreciate that he’s able to give a public talk in addition to the time he’ll spend with students.”

The public presentation — Real Life on Fake Mars: A Student Guide to Becoming an Everyday Astronaut — takes place at 7:30 pm on Thursday, March 31. University staff is welcome to attend either of these free presentations. Register here.

The presentation is also sponsored by the Department of Physics and Astronomy (Faculty of Science) and the University of Calgary student club SOAR — the Student Organization for Aerospace Research.