Saskatoon

Aspiring Saskatoon astronaut spending 5 days underwater for research mission

Five scientists and former soldiers from Canada and the United States are at the Jules Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Fla., this week testing how high-pressure, cramped conditions affect the human body.

Doug Campbell, 4 others test the physical strain of cramped, isolated conditions

Saskatoon biomedical engineer Doug Campbell raises the flag at the Jules Undersea Lodge in Florida, where he and four other researchers are testing how high-pressure, cramped conditions affect the human body. (Submitted by Doug Campbell)

It may not be the vacuum of space, but it's the next best thing.

This week, five scientists and former soldiers from Canada and the United States are at the Jules Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Fla., to test how high-pressure, cramped conditions affect the human body.

"We're looking at things like, how does your brain function change?" said Saskatoon biomedical engineer and aspiring astronaut Doug Campbell.  "What happens to your heart rate? How is your respiratory rate different?"

The crew is part of the NEPTUNE (Nautical Experiments in Physiology, Technology and Underwater Exploration) project, a civilian-led project trying to recreate space-like conditions in a tourist resort seven metres underwater.

While tourists normally only stay in the lodge for 24 hours, the research team will be in the facility for six days.

Speaking to CBC Radio's The Morning Edition, Campbell said it's more difficult to perform cognitive tests after being underwater for more than four days.

"I had to make sure it was concentrating really hard, which I'm sure was making my brain work harder," he said. "It just seemed like everything was happening, like, half a second slower than I want it to."

Campbell says the lessons they're learning could be applied to places such as the International Space Station's cramped quarters.

"Those are all things that could relate to future astronauts as they go on longer duration missions," he said. "So, if we can understand some of those things by doing more simple tests here on Earth, you can translate that into what it's going to be like in a much more difficult situation when you go to the moon."

The tests will also be useful to test the effects of saturation diving, a technique that allows divers to avoid the effects of decompression sickness while working at great depths underwater.

Campbell's last day in the lodge will be Tuesday.

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