March 15, 2016 – Denver resident Andrzej Stewart and his five cremates have spent more than six months of their 12-month mission in a solar-powered dome as part of a University of Hawai’i at Manoa research project simulating long-duration space travel.
Stewart is part of the fourth Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission, the longest in HI-SEAS history. As with the previous two missions in the NASA funded study, the current mission is focused on crewmember cohesion and performance.
“It’s fun to know you’ve made it halfway,” said crewmember Tristan Bassingthwaighte. The doctor of architecture candidate at UH Mānoa said, “Getting halfway is a great validation in the work you’re doing for yourself, academically or just personally. You also find you’re listening to Life on Mars by David Bowie a lot more often.”
Conditions in the habitat closely mimic the experience that astronauts would have on a real planetary mission – with a limited supply of fresh food, no fresh air, and modest supplies. Also part of the astronaut experience is having to leave family and friends behind for the duration of the mission. Crew Commander Carmel Johnston, a soil scientist from Montana, said that she is looking forward to seeing her family.
“It will be really fun to go swimming in the ocean, go for a run, feel the wind, smell the rain and other smells of nature, and be able to walk in a straight line that is longer than 20 feet,” Johnston said. “Those things aside, life in the dome is pretty awesome.”
Stewart serves as the chief engineer for the HI-SEAS mission, responsible for maintaining electrical systems and computer networks, as well as managing a limited water supply. Before his mission started, Stewart worked in the Mission Support Area (MSA) for Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Colorado, where he’s played a role in several planetary missions.
Stewart’s crew is scheduled to emerge from the habitat in August 2016.
In May, NASA awarded HI-SEAS a third grant to keep the research project and its missions funded through 2019.