Categorized | Sci-Tech

HI-SEAS to study human performance for long-duration space exploration


NASA has awarded $1.2 million to the Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program to continue its work studying the human factors that contribute to astronaut crew function and performance during long-duration space travels, such as those anticipated for a manned mission to Mars.

The new contract award builds upon an ongoing HI-SEAS study, led by Cornell University and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, that is analyzing new types of food and novel food preparation strategies to keep astronauts well-nourished for long-duration space exploration.  Both grants are funded by the NASA Human Research Program.

“Our HI-SEAS site on the Big Island is unique among space analog locations, because it is easily accessible year-round, allowing for longer-duration isolated and confined environment studies,” UH Mānoa Assistant Professor Kim Binsted, principal investigator for the new program, said.

“The Mars-like environment at 8,000 feet elevation on Mauna Loa offers the potential for high-fidelity space analog tasks, such as geological field work by human explorers or robots,” Binsted continued. “It’s an ideal location to model the challenging conditions that astronauts are likely to encounter during their stay on Mars.”

“This follow-on project will enable us to further develop our current studies, such as those on cooking and antimicrobial fabrics,” Jean Hunter, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University and a co-investigator, said.  “Additionally, we’ll now be able to accommodate testing of life support equipment prototypes, space suit components, and rovers.”

More than 700 applicants vied for six spots in the original HI-SEAS mission, which began in April 2013 and is expected to run until August 2013.  These Earth-based researchers are now living and working like astronauts, including suiting up in space gear whenever they venture outside a simulated Martian base and cooking meals from a specific list of dehydrated and shelf-stable food items.  The public is invited to follow along with the videos, researcher blogs, and test recipes featured at or on Twitter (@HI_SEAS) or Facebook.

The new NASA funding will fuel three additional space analog missions over the next three years:  four months, eight months, and one year in duration, respectively.  In spring 2015, the one-year duration study is scheduled to coincide with the joint US-Russian one-year mission to the International Space Station, and has the potential to serve as a ground-based control group for this effort.

Collaborating institutions for the new grant include UH Mānoa, Cornell University, PISCES (Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems), Michigan State University, Blue Planet Foundation, SIFT (Smart Information Flow Technologies), and the Institutes for Behavioral Resources, Inc.

Recruiting for the next HI-SEAS mission will begin shortly, with the first of the three new studies expected to begin in January 2014.


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