Explorers Justin Packshaw and Jamie Facer Childs are working with NASA, Stanford University and the European Space Agency (ESA) travelling over 2,000 miles from coast to coast of Antarctica, right through the frozen heart of the continent. Over the 80 day expedition, they will receive no assistance, travelling by foot and kite, relying solely on physical and mental strength.
Much like the extreme conditions found on planets in our Solar System, Antarctica has an austere environment that is useful for a range of human and biological research, ranging from isolation, microbial investigations, immunology, and much more. Justin and Jamie's mission will allow scientists to observe a rare scientific story of human adaptability, which will ultimately contribute to the ongoing mapping of genomic, physiological, psychological, and environmental data models of human centered space exploration.
Justin has made a name for himself in the world of exploration, adventure and philanthropy. After spending eight years serving as an officer in the British Army, Justin went onto represent Great Britain at sailing, competing in the Whitbread Round the World Race.
Today, he is a Partner in Joro, a luxury travel company and has led several trips to the North and South Poles as well as summiting Mount Everest. Justin has always been a self-proclaimed thrill seeker but experience taught him that life is all the richer when you’re contributing something.
Travelling alongside Justin will be Dr. Jamie Facer Childs. Born in 1987, Jamie was the world’s first frozen embryo twin and something of a medical miracle - which he’s never forgotten. He sees life as one great opportunity and won’t settle for the ordinary or shy away from danger.
In 2007 he was the youngest person to row across the Indian Ocean. In 2017 he was part of the first British team to fully cross Antarctica on foot. Working for years as an army medic, he’s travelled the world. Today, at 34 years old, Jamie works at on an Intensive Care Unit at University College Hospital in London treating the most extreme cases of COVID-19.
NASA frequently sends teams to Antarctica, such as McMurdo and Palmer stations, to learn more about the Moon and Mars given they both are cold, dry, and desolate. However, teams remain housed in-station for their research, making this trek a novel opportunity to collect human data while facing such extreme elements for an extended period of time. You can read more about article features in the UK Times or UK Daily Mail.
Justin and Jamie's expedition is contributing to the groundbreaking work of NASA Senior Scientist, Dr. Katherine Rahill's study of psychophysics on other planets, called "lunar psychophysics". The study of lunar psychophysics was inspired from Apollo era reports documenting Astronauts' perceptual distortions on the Moon due to the absence of an Earth-like atmosphere and microgravity, which ultimately led to mission-related errors and the depletion of oxygen resources.
With NASA's plans to return to the Moon over the next decade, it's imperative these questions are revisited to prepare for Artemis missions. Lunar psychophysics examines how human psychophysical responses change when exposed to extraterrestrial stimuli, such as reduced gravity and the absence of an Earth-like atmosphere.
From what we've gathered from low-earth orbit studies, we know that humans are in many ways psychophysically bounded to Earth-based stimuli and experiences; meaning that our ability to adapt to the space environment may pose a challenge to Astronauts, and once adapted, it may pose additional problems when returning to Earth after months or years in space.
It's essential we can test and model these questions in lunar-like environments to ensure our Astronauts are cognitively and psychophysically prepared to navigate and adjust to the surface of the Moon or Mars. Antarctica is an ideal analog to begin testing these questions of human adaptability and psychophysical resilience.
Dr. Rahill and Assistant Professor Dr. Ben D. Sawyer from University of Central Florida aim to systematically measure psychophysical changes in the Antarctic and compare findings to the well-documented perceptual distortions from the Apollo missions, which have also been nominally reported in the Antarctic.
Moreover, this study will be the first to capture real-time psychophysical changes in the Antarctic. If successful, this data may serve as a preliminary model of psychophysical adaptation on other planets, thereby contributing to Dr. Rahill's lunar psychophysics research and Dr. Sawyers' ongoing work with psychophysics in extreme environments.
The outcomes of this work show promise for contributing to NASA's many efforts to comprehensively model the performance of Astronauts who will one day voyage to other planetary bodies in our solar system.
Track Justin and Jamie's daily progress along with their vitals and journal entries at https://www.chasingthelight2021.com/