July 13, 2016 – Lockheed Martin employee Andrzej Stewart and his five cremates said their final goodbyes to the outside world on August 29,2015 as they entered an isolated habitat for twelve months. Since then, the six crew members have shared living space in a solar-powered dome in Hawaii and have been simulating a year on Mars as part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program, led by the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and funded by the NASA Human Research Program. This is the longest mission in HI-SEAS history and focuses on crew member cohesion and performance.
In such a controlled environment, HI-SEAS provides an opportunity to study the energy, water and consumption needs of astronauts on Mars, but more importantly, the social and psychological effects of living in a closed habitat with limited privacy. Crew members are monitored using cameras, body movement trackers, electronic surveys, and other methods, and researchers are able to gather data on a wide range of cognitive, social and emotional factors that could impact team performance on long-duration missions.
NASA is associated with at least 15 different analog missions throughout the world, including Antarctica, Germany, Russia, Canada, Florida, Houston, and Hawaii. Each site is uniquely situated to produce affects on the body that are similar to those experienced in space, both physical and emotional.
Andy Self, Flight Analog Project operations lead at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston explained, “When we set up an analog research investigation, we try to mimic as many spaceflight conditions as possible. Obviously, they are not in microgravity, but confinement and the stress that goes along with spaceflight can be mimicked.”
Crew members perform research or mission tasks that closely mimic what they would perform in space. When Stewart and his crew mates venture outside, they need to wear spacesuits to investigate the barren volcano that they live near. They are also given a limited supply of fresh food, no fresh air, and modest supplies. Stewart has also missed seeing his wife for the duration of the mission.
“My wife also wants to be an astronaut, so she has been very understanding. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Stewart before he entered the habitat.
NASA’s Human Research Program has launched Phase 1 of a new NASA Analog Missions website devoted to these studies around the world that are helping to prepare us for deep space exploration. The new webpage gives an overview of the analogs, including a description of the habitats and the types of research conducted, along with a link to each analog mission. The site, www.nasa.gov/analogs is a one-stop website for all analog missions linked to NASA.
Future phases of the Analog Missions webpage will give more details for each analog, 360-degree experiences, and more history and education on analog missions.
Researchers can help NASA achieve national research objectives by submitting research proposals and conducting awarded research. NASA uses a peer review process to evaluate and select submitted research proposals which are posted on the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) at https://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/
Researchers can find links to calls for research, and instructions on how to submit proposals, on the new analog page.
In the meantime, if Stewart’s experience sounds appealing to you, details about applying to be a crewmember, or test subject, can be found on the “Want to Participate” page.