Mission to ‘Mars’ is an international one
The University of Hawaii simulation project is launching its sixth mission
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-
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.