Mark Pathy isn’t the type to be in the spotlight, but as part of the historic first civilian mission to the space station, he didn’t have much of a choice.
“If I could have done that in complete anonymity, I definitely would have done that,” he said. “But obviously that’s not possible.”
Pathy, a 52-year-old Montreal entrepreneur and philanthropist, spoke from his brightly lit hotel quarantine room outside of Orlando, Fla. while awaiting his launch. It had already been pushed back twice from its original date of March 30.
But the time has finally come. If all goes well, Pathy will launch Friday at 11:17 a.m. ET on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket bound for the International Space Station (ISS).
“I’ve had this fantasy since I was a kid and I was watching star trek‘ he said via Zoom. “I had fantasies of traveling through space and hopping through the universe and meeting new species and discovering new worlds… all those things.”
Pathy isn’t exactly setting out to meet frowning aliens, but he’s not on a pleasure cruise to the ISS either. Instead, he’s part of a crew of four that includes a former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegriaentrepreneur Larry Connor and investor Eytan Stibbe – the first civilian mission to the space station, and they will work hard.
The four are included axiom space‘s Ax-1 mission. Axiom is a privately funded space company aiming to send commercial missions to the ISS – Ax-1 being their first – and eventually to build the world’s first commercial space station.
It may seem like a fantastic and unnecessary goal to build a space station, but the company’s goal is to conduct research and experiments that can be used not only in space but also here on Earth.
And that was part of the appeal for Pathy to buy a $50 million seat.
“When I found out that we were able to pick and choose research that we could bring with us and finish up there, that was just the icing on the cake – that I could actually do that much more impactfully.”
But how do you tell your wife and two children that you are about to strap yourself into a rocket, undergo a controlled explosion, and head to a place where no human should live or work?
“I came home and said to my wife, ‘I think I’m going to go to space.’ And her first response was, ‘Not without me you’re not,'” he said. “But she’s happy for me and my kids were really excited … My parents were skeptical at first, but they’ve become huge supporters. And they are really excited about this whole thing.”
Pathy knows there are risks.
“I have a young family, so I don’t kind of think, ‘Wow, well, you know, I’ve had a good life, but what the heck.’
“I still intend to live a long and fruitful life,” he said. “I was worried about my safety and worried about my ability to do all this new stuff and make all these commitments, with the research and everything… but at this point I’m not really worried anymore.”
Sci-Fi Tech Demonstration
Pathy will be working hard to complete 12 research projects, including a technical demonstration of two-way holoportation in space, something the researchers hope will help here on Earth.
And if that sounds like something out star trekthat’s because it kind of is.
star trek — as well as many other sci-fi shows and films — often use holograms, or 3D interpretations of humans, as a means of communication. Pathy’s experiment, meanwhile, won’t be quite what we see on the big screen. Instead, he and someone else on the ground will be wearing virtual reality headsets, which work more like augmented reality. The technology is a joint effort by Leap Biosystems, Aexa Aerospace and Microsoft.
Former Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dave Williams worked with Pathy on this technology, and he’s excited to see where its creation will take us.
“Images from mission control on Earth will be sent into space and Mark will see them as if they were in space with him on board the International Space Station,” he said. “More importantly, images from the space station are sent to Mission Control to make it appear as if Mark is actually in Mission Control with the team on the ground.
“It’s an incredible technology that you can just imagine how we might use it in the future.”
CLOCK | Aexa Aerospace Demonstrates Holoportation:
And these future uses could help serve Canadians in important ways.
“If you’re talking about medical care in the Canadian Arctic, I guess it’s an extreme environment with temperature swings, significant isolation, etc.,” Williams said. “And we want to be able to build robust technologies that work in those remote, isolated communities — or in remote regions in space.”
pain in the name of science
Another important experiment is one on chronic pain, something millions of people experience every day. But its nature and the role the brain plays in it is not yet fully understood.
“When people say pain is only in your brain, that’s absolutely true. The mind is the most complex organ we have that is completely unexplored in many ways,” said Dr. Pablo Ingelmo, anesthetist and director of the Edwards Family Interdisciplinary Center for Complex Pain at Montreal Children’s Hospital, who is participating in this experiment with Pathy.
“As doctors, we have confused two concepts. One is nociception: What do I feel inside a stimulus that might produce pain, the way I send information to my brain,” he explains. “But pain is a whole different topic. Pain is my reaction, my behavior, my tolerance, my expression of this nociceptive stimulus.”
An example is those who have fibromyalgia. People with this poorly understood condition experience pain very differently than people who do not have the condition. Your body processes even mild pain as something more powerful, a process called as allodynia.
Another reason is back pain.
It is It is common for astronauts to experience back pain both in space and when returning to Earth. Ingelmo and his team want to better understand the role that the brain plays in this and apply this knowledge to patients here on site.
To get a baseline of how Pathy feels pain, he was pushed and shoved.
“They stuck needles in different parts of my body and asked me to report on my pain levels. And then heat and then cold, mostly on my arm but also on my lower back,” he said.
“It’s not always convenient or convenient, but I think, look, I’m really lucky that I’m getting the chance to do something positive for society.”
Pathy’s family will be watching him closely when he takes off. There will even be a party. But he’s not looking forward to that.
“Personally, I’m more looking forward to the return party.”