Six scientists have been selected to spend an entire year isolated in a solar-powered dome habitat on Hawaii’s Big Island to simulate a trip to Mars.
It’s the fourth, and so far the longest, mission in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation project — a NASA-funded simulation of long-duration space exploration. The last mission ended June 13, when scientists emerged after eight months in the dome.
“The longer each mission becomes, the better we can understand the risks of space travel,” said Kim Binsted, the project’s principal investigator and a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The goal, she said, is to better understand what’s involved in long-term space travel and how to prepare a flight crew for the estimated three-year journey to and from Mars.
The six participants will be monitored using surveillance cameras, body-movement trackers and electronic surveys. Researchers from UH Manoa will study the group’s cohesion over time and collect information on cognitive, social and emotional factors that may impact the team.
The 2015-2016 crew members are: Sheyna Gifford, a neuroscience and astrophysics researcher and science writer; Tristan Bassingthwaighte, a UH Manoa architecture student whose doctoral work will involve designing a conceptual Mars habitat; Carmel Johnston, a social scientist from Montana who has researched food production in the Mars simulation; Andrzej Stewart, an aeronautical engineer who has worked as an interplanetary flight controller for Lockheed Martin and a flight engineer for a NASA simulation; Cyprien Verseux, an astrobiologist and expert on biological life support systems for Mars exploration; and Christiane Heinicke, a German physicist and engineer who has studied sea ice and worked on simulations of the Earth’s mantle.
The mission begins August 28. NASA awarded the project a third grant this spring to keep it funded through 2018.