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Local scientist going on NASA Mars mission

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Ross Lockwood and five other researchers will spend four months together inside a sealed environment high on the slopes of a Hawaiian mountain.
A scientist from Kelowna will participate in a simulated mission to Mars funded by NASA.
Ross Lockwood and five other researchers will spend four months together inside a sealed environment high on the slopes of a Hawaiian mountain.
The main purpose of the mission is to help NASA develop psychological guidelines the space agency will use to select future astronauts capable of making a real trip to Mars.
"It's incredibly exciting to participate in a research project that will be used to help in space exploration," Lockwood, 27, said Wednesday. "I'm really looking forward to this, but I'm also a little bit nervous as well."
Lockwood, a 2004 graduate of Kelowna Secondary School, is working on his doctorate in condensed matter physics at the University of Alberta.
Lockwood has always had an interest in space-related research and astronomy, and he's worked in educational programs at the University of Alberta Observatory.
His scientific background and experience in various university leadership roles helped him beat out hundreds of other researchers from around the world who applied to join the simulated Mars mission, which is led by Cornell University and the University of Hawaii.
On March 28, Lockwood and the other researchers will enter the 36-foot diameter dome built in an old rock quarry at an elevation of 8,200 feet on the slopes of Mauna Koa.
While inside the habitat, the researchers will spend several hours a day taking various psychological tests, and continuing with their own research endeavours.
Lockwood is currently working as an adviser on a project to see whether surgical tools created by a 3-D printer might eventually be used as effectively as real operating room implements.
The researchers can emerge occasionally from their sealed habitat, wearing simulated space suits, to take volcanic soil samples, map the rocky terrain, and replicate other tasks likely to be engaged in by future astronauts on Mars.
Lockwood hasn't yet met his fellow mission participants face-to-face, but group members have spoken at length to one another on the phone and chat weekly on Skype.
"So we're not complete strangers to one another," Locke said. "I don't anticipate any problems with us all getting along together."
He plans to use Twitter and Facebook to chronicle his experiences on the project, which is dubbed HI-SEAS, for Hawaii Space Exploration and Analog Simulation.
But his communications are subject to a delay of up to 20 minutes, which is the time it takes messages to travel from Mars to Earth.
Asked if he has any aspirations to one day applying to the Canadian Space Agency to become a real astronaut, Lockwood said with a laugh: "You just have to live your life hoping that, if an interesting door opens, you can maybe sneak your foot in there before it closes."

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