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HI-SEAS: 8 Month Mars Simulation Crew Recruited

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The University of Hawai’i announced Wednesday the six crew members selected for the latest Hawai’i Exploration Analog and Simulation, better known as HI-SEAS, mission. Among the crew is the first female HI-SEAS commander, Martha Lenio.

The HI-SEAS crew members are part of a human performance study being conducted by the University of Hawai`i and funded by NASA. The mission will be twice as long as any previously completed at the Hawai’i site, and is second only to Russia’s Mars500 experiment.

The crew members will live out an eight month Mars simulation in a dome habitat that is located at the approximately 8000 ft elevation mark in an abandoned quarry on the northern slope of Mauna Loa. The site contains sparse vegetation and has no rare, threatened, or endangered species. Additionally, it has no archaeological sites or cultural practices.

HI-SEAS habitat located on the Northern slope of Mauna Loa. Photo Credit: HI-SEAS

The mission begins on Oct. 15.

Commander Martha Lenio will be the first female commander HI-SEAS has ever had. In NASA history, only two women have ever commanded a spaceship: Astronaut Eileen Collins in July 1999 and Astronaut Pamela Melroy in November 2007.

Lenio was selected based on feedback from fellow crew members and from instructors of the National Outdoor Leadership Skills course that both NASA and HI-SEAS require of their teams in training. Lenio is a mechanical engineer who earned her PhD in photovoltaic engineering from the University of New South Whales in 2013. She has worked in sustainable building and the photovoltaic industry, and is currently starting up her own renewable energy consulting firm.

This mission, which is the third, will focus on the group’s cohesion over time. UH Manoa researchers and their collaborators will be gathering data on a wide range of cognitive, social, and emotional factors that may impact team performance.

“The HI-SEAS site presents a remarkably high-fidelity environment for this type of long-duration study,” said UH Manoa’s Kim Binsted, the principal investigator for the study. “Looking out the single porthole window, all you can see are lava fields and Mauna Kea in the distance. Once the door is closed and the faux airlock sealed, the silence and physical separation contribute to the ‘long way from home’ experience of our crew members.”

During their eight months within the habitat, the crew will be continuously monitored using surveillance cameras, body movement, trackers, electronic survey and other methods.

In addition to Commander Lenio, the 2014 – 2015 crew members include:

  • Neil Scheibelhut, a graduate of the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, who earned his bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology. He is also a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom III and is currently working as a microbiologist in Los Angeles.
  • Jocelyn Dunn, a PhD candidate at Purdue University in the School of Industrial Engineering. Her dissertation is focused on real-time data analytics for decision support and system improvement. She has a bachelors degree in aerospace engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master’s degree from the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University.
  • Allen Mirkadyrov, an aerospace engineer in the flight safety division of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA. His primary focus is on orbital and sub-orbital missions at various launch ranges around the world. He has also served 10 years in the U.S. Air Force, enlisted and as an officer.
  • Sophie Milam, a graduate of the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, who earned her degree in physics and astronomy and is now a graduate student at the University of Idaho. She is currently working with the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.
  • Zak Wilson, the only crew member with previous experience on a space analog study. Wilson participated as a crew engineer for a 2-week mission at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. He has a master’s degree in composite materials from Imperial College London and previously worked as a stress analyst with General Atomic Aeronautical Systems’ Airframe Integrity Group.

The reserve crew includes medical doctor Michael Castro of Palm Bay, FL and Ed Fix, a former Air Force flight commander and research laboratory brand chief.


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