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Medical incident suspends Big Island Mars simulation

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This geodesic dome on Mauna Loa on Hawaii island is serving as home for this year’s HI-SEAS mission funded by NASA, simulating the surface of Mars.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa’s months-long Mars simulation mission was suspended today — five days after it began — because of a medical incident.

A crew member of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation was taken to Hilo Medical Center about 8 a.m. today because of an undisclosed medical condition and was under observation for a few hours before being released, UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said.

In accordance with safety protocols, the crew left the HI-SEAS dome at the 8,200-foot level of Mauna Loa on Hawaii island and the mission has been suspended.

It will remain on hold until the dome can be inspected and an investigation completed.

Meisenzahl said that he didn’t know how long it would take for the mission to resume and more information may be available later this week.

“It’s the first time this ever happened,” he said.

Meisenzahl said no further medical information could be released without the crew member’s permission.

The HI-SEAS mission started Thursday with four crew members — two men and two women — from Australia, Korea, Scotland and Slovakia. It is the sixth mission and was supposed to last eight months, with crew members sealed in the dome as if on the surface of Mars.

The project is funded by a $1 million NASA grant to study human behavior and performance in a planetary exploration mission.

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