Categorized | Sci-Tech

PISCES stars on ‘Mars’


The first ever PISCES Women STARS (STEM Aerospace Research Scholars) program was completed this summer after three Hawaii High School students successfully returned to Earth from “Mars.”

Catherine Cauley of Hilo High School, Sage Doreste of Connections Public Charter School, and Emily Strawn of Konawaena High School spent one night on the “Red Planet” via the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Habitat on Mauna Loa, making them the very first students to stay at the two-story, geodesic dome.

“My favorite part is when we first arrived and we first walked in because just walking in was amazing, getting to explore the Habitat and going ‘oh wow, this is what I was hearing about’…it was just amazing to see it all in person,” said Strawn.

The HI-SEAS Mars Habitat, designed by V. Paul Ponthieux of Envision Design and built by the Blue Planet Foundation of Honolulu, Hawaii.

During the extraterrestrial field trip, Cauley, Doreste, and Strawn cooked space food for lunch, dinner and breakfast. They were tasked with picking from a variety of shelf stable ingredients, including crystallized eggs and powdered coconut milk to create the meals (think ‘Chopped’, the TV show on the Food Network).

The trio also went on an expedition, hiking on the surrounding lava fields on both days in search of lava tubes (in space, lava tubes on the Moon and Mars could serve as shelter for astronauts).

They successfully found them on Day Two of their trip.

“My favorite part was definitely hiking around on Mauna Loa. It’s just so pristine…while there might not be any plants or anything, you don’t have that influence that you usually get from most places where humans have been for long periods of time and so just having that escape is really nice. There’s such isolation,” said Cauley.

The three also experienced what it’s like to explore the “martian” terrain in the HI-SEAS spacesuit simulators. But they only made it as far as the front of the Hab before retreating back inside.

Cauley, Doreste and Strawn were accompanied by HI-SEAS Principal Investigator Dr. Kim Binsted, PISCES STARS Project Lead Mari-Ela David Chock, and PISCES Executive Administrator Polly Roth.

The “Mars” excursion, held Aug. 30-31, was the grand finale of STARS – a PISCES STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) program designed to inspire and encourage more young women to pursue a career in aerospace or other STEM related field.

“For me, this experience is exactly what I wanted because…it’s allowing me to get a first-hand look into the field,” said Strawn.

“I really liked hearing about how people got to where they are now,” said Doreste.

Plans for next year’s STARS is already underway, with PISCES now looking at opening up the workshop portion of the program to teachers in the spring. This would be in addition to the student workshop held in the summer.

“Having these experiences, not only on this trip, but with doing the workshop with PISCES, it really helps you understand just how the science is done…and that’s something I’ve always loved,” said Cauley.

Catherine Cauley, Sage Doreste and Emily Strawn ready for their ‘MARS’ trip. (Photo courtesy of PISCES)

Catherine Cauley, Sage Doreste and Emily Strawn ready for their ‘MARS’ trip. (Photo courtesy of PISCES)

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