In 2002, the harsh climate and powerful winds of Devon Island, the largest uninhabited island on this planet, made it an unlikely vacation destination for warm-weather, cottage-loving Canadians. But a University of Guelph-Canadian Space Agency collaborative research team was there for the summer for the first phase of a three-year research initiative for advanced life support in space.
Dr. Alain Berinstain and Keegan Boyd of the Canadian Space Agency, along with University of Guelph Prof. Mike Dixon and research assistant Tom Graham, both of the Department of Plant Agriculture, spearheaded the project. Berinstain, Graham and Keegan, were charged with the task of erecting a greenhouse on the island, and establishing the necessary sensory and monitoring systems (during the remaining 46 weeks of the year, the team monitored the greenhouse via the Internet). They were charged with the task of building the greenhouse (which was flown in unassembled and dropped by air), initiating the sensory systems and characterizing the greenhouse. All of these steps were fairly straightforward, but dealing with high winds, harsh temperatures and 24-hour sunlight posed new challenges.
Researchers hoped to identify the ways in which technology needed to be adapted to function in the even harsher conditions of Mars.
Photo: Martin Schwalbe