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Crew members selected for 8-month Mars simulation

A HI-SEAS crew member from a previous mission. (Photo courtesy of Sian Proctor)

A HI-SEAS crew member from a previous mission. (Photo courtesy of Sian Proctor)


The six astronaut-like crew members of the next Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission starting Oct. 15 will be isolated in their dome habitat for eight months.

This mission is twice as long as any previously completed at the Hawaii site, and second only to Russia’s Mars500 experiment in total duration.

Also, for the first time, HI-SEAS will have a woman commander. In NASA history, only two women have ever commanded the spaceship: astronauts Eileen Collins in July 1999, and Pamela Melroy in November 2007.

For true space flight, the commander role requires previous astronaut experience as well as at least 1,000 hours experience piloting a jet aircraft.

For HI-SEAS, Commander Martha 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 Wales (Sydney, Australia) in 2013.

She has worked in sustainable building and the photovoltaics industry, and is currently starting up her own renewable energy consulting firm.

Lenio was born and raised in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

The six HI-SEAS crew members are part of a human performance study funded by NASA. UH Manoa researchers and their collaborators will be studying the group’s cohesion over time, gathering data on a wide range of cognitive, social and emotional factors that may impact team performance.

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

“The HI-SEAS site presents a remarkably high-fidelity environment for this type of long-duration space 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 Maunakea 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.”

2014/2015 HI-SEAS crew members include:

* Neil Scheibelhut, a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Hilo who earned his bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology. Scheibelhut is a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom III and is currently working as a microbiologist in Los Angeles. He was born in Mishawaka, Ind.

* 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. Dunn grew up in Sebring, Fla. She has a bachelor’s 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 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Va. His primary focus is on orbital and sub-orbital missions at various launch ranges around the world. Previously, Mirkadyrov served 10 years in the U.S. Air Force, both in an enlisted role and as an officer. He was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, USSR, and now lives in Phoenix, Ariz.

* Sophie Milam, a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Hilo who earned her degree in physics and astronomy and is now a graduate student at the University of Idaho. Milam grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and is currently working with the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. She plans a career in STEM outreach.

* 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 Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ Airframe Integrity Group. He grew up in Boulder, Colo.

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

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