East Hawaii News

Cooperation Focus of Upcoming Simulated Mars Mission

February 27, 2014, 11:58 AM HST
* Updated February 27, 12:05 PM
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The first mission involved food.

The next one will get down to the nitty-gritty of interpersonal relationships.

The University of Hawaii announced today that a crew of six has been selected for the latest installment of a simulated Mars exploration.

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, better known as HI-SEAS, takes place inside a solar-powered dome at the 8,000-foot elevation of Mauna Loa.

Crew members for the initial four-month mission completed in August 2013 experimented with both crew-cooked and pre-prepared foods.

This mission, which will also last four months, will basically focus on how the crew gets along.

“The upcoming mission is focused on the social, interpersonal, and cognitive factors that affect team performance over time,” said Kim Binsted, associate professor at UH-Manoa and principal investigator for this and the next two HI-SEAS missions planned for this year and 2015.

The next two will have a duration of eight months and a year, respectively.

During the upcoming study, researchers from outside of the HI-SEAS habitat will monitor the six crew members living in the remote location on Mauna Loa.

The HI-SEAS simulation includes participants wearing "spacesuits" when outside their living area. The solar array that provides power can be seen at left. Photo by Angelo Vermeulen.

The HI-SEAS simulation includes participants wearing “spacesuits” when outside their living area. The solar array that provides power to the dome can be seen at left. Photo by Angelo Vermeulen/HI-SEAS.

The researchers will evaluate the crew’s communications strategies, crew workload and job-sharing, and conflict-resolution and conflict-management approaches to determine the most important factors for the success of a long-duration space mission.

“Hawai‘i provides a unique setting to simulate the challenging conditions for human exploration to Mars,” Binstead said. “We have selected a strong crew for our next four-month study.”

They are:

  • Ross Lockwood, a PhD candidate in condensed matter physics at the University of Alberta who hails from Winfield, British Columbia
  • Casey Stedman, a Washington resident and officer in the US Air Force Reserve
  • Ronald Williams, director of the Neuropsychology Department at the Fort Wayne Neurological Center in Indiana
  • Tiffany Swarmer, a research assistant studying human factors and performance for long-duration space missions at the University of North Dakota’s Human Spaceflight Laboratory
  • Lucie Poulet, originally from the Lorraine region of France who is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Space Systems at the German Aerospace Center and also designs hybrid lighting systems for greenhouses
  • Anne Caraccio, a resident from Bellmore, N.Y. who is a NASA researcher developing a method of turning waste from space missions into useable gases for fuel/propulsion, environmental control, and life-support systems

There is also a reserve crew member, James Sakai, who is a mechanical engineer and captain in the US Army Reserve from Rupert, Idaho.

HI-SEAS crew members, which range in age from 26 to 60, were required have “astronaut-like characteristics,” including the ability to pass a Class 2 flight physical examination and undergraduate training as a scientist or engineer.

Like the astronaut mission specialists they represent, each participant was expected to bring a significant research project or other scholarly work of his or her own to complete while inside the space analog habitat.

The upcoming mission gets underway March 28.

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