Mis­sion to ‘Mars’ is an in­ter­na­tional one

The Univer­sity of Hawaii sim­u­la­tion project is launch­ing its sixth mis­sion

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL & BUSINESS - B2 B7 By Ti­mothy Hur­ley thur­ley@starad­ver­tiser.com

The re­mote and rugged ter­rain of Hawaii is­land will once again take up its star­ring role as the sur­face of Mars to­day in an on­go­ing, NASA-funded study of the hu­man fac­tors that con­trib­ute to long-du­ra­tion space ex­plo­ration.

The Univer­sity of Hawaii at Manoa Hawaii Space Ex­plo­ration Ana­log and Sim­u­la­tion, or HI-SEAS, is launch­ing its sixth mis­sion with its most in­ter­na­tional crew yet.

At about 5 p.m., four crew mem­bers — hail­ing from Aus­tralia, South Korea, Scot­land and Slo­vakia — will en­ter a ge­o­desic dome habi­tat at the 8,000-foot level of Mauna Loa and re­main there for eight months.

A sin­gle port­hole win­dow will of­fer a view of lava fields and Mauna Kea in the dis­tance. Once the door is closed and the faux air­lock sealed, “the as­tro­nauts” might feel like they’ve landed some­place far, far away.

UH-Manoa’s Kim Bin­sted, the study’s prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor, said it was just a co­in­ci­dence that the crew fea­tures mem­bers from four dif­fer­ent coun­tries of ori­gin, se­lected from some 800 ap­pli­cants, but it was serendip­i­tous nev­er­the­less.

“For hu­mans to suc­cess­fully un­der­take a long-du­ra­tion space­flight to Mars, it will re­quire a global col­lab­o­ra­tion,” she said. “I’m re­ally ex­cited about this crew. There is ex­cel­lence all over the world, and I’m con­fi­dent they will do a good job.”

Iron­i­cally, the for­eign­ers will be stud­ied, poked, prod­ded, tested, mea­sured and de­briefed by about 50 sci­en­tists rep­re­sent­ing eight teams — all from the USA.

The fo­cus of the mis­sion is crew com­po­si­tion, Bin­sted said, and the four-mem­ber crew is the project’s small­est yet, in part be­cause NASA is now rec­om­mend­ing the smaller crew size for long-dis­tance space travel.

“With a smaller crew, there will be fewer peo­ple who will have to take on ad­di­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and so we will have to re­dis­tribute roles,” Bin­sted said. “It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how this turns out.”

The oper­a­tion will be con­ducted un­der the kinds of con­di­tions that would be ex­pected if they ac­tu­ally did land on the sur­face of the red planet. All com­mu­ni­ca­tions, for ex­am­ple, are de­layed by 20 min­utes be­cause that’s how long it would take for a mes­sage to travel be­tween Earth and Mars.

Daily rou­tines in­clude food prepa­ra­tion “from only shelf-sta­ble in­gre­di­ents,” ex­er­cise, re­search and field work to match NASA’s plan­e­tary ex­plo­ration ex­pecta-

MARS,

COUR­TESY UNIVER­SITY OF HAWAII

This ge­o­desic dome on Mauna Loa on Hawaii is­land will once again serve as home for this year’s HI-SEAS mis­sion funded by NASA, sim­u­lat­ing the sur­face of Mars. A four-mem­ber in­ter­na­tional crew will spend the next eight months in the dome, be­ing stud­ied for hu­man be­hav­ior and per­for­mance in space.

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