Sunday, August 14, 2016

A chance to experience life on Mars. Interested?

Want to experience life on Mars?
The University of Hawai`i, through a NASA-funded research project, is offering the opportunity to be a mock Barsoomian.

But consider carefully.

(Image: Bedrock in the central uplift area of an impact crater on Mars. Credit: NASA.)

There will be isolation. There will be space suits. But there are unlikely to be blasters, little green men or much in the way of excitement.

The Hawai`i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program at the Hawai`i state university is looking for people willing to spend eight months in relative isolation, as part of a program to figure out how humans respond to extreme conditions. 

Participants would spend most of their eight-month mock-Martian period in a geodesic dome at 8,200 feet on the side of Mauna Loa. The program calls it “an isolated Mars-like environment.”

A group of people will live together in tight quarters, separated from humanity, to help our space agency understand for a real Mars mission what kinds of people they should pick, what mixes of sexes they need, what kinds of stuff they need to help keep them sane, and so forth.

“These types of studies are essential for NASA to understand how teams of astronauts will perform on long-duration space exploration missions, such as those that will be required for human travel to Mars. The studies will also allow researchers to recommend strategies for crew composition for such missions, and to determine how best to support such crews while they are working in space,” HI-SEAS says.

It’s not for everyone, but in many ways, it’s not a whole lot different than the ocean voyages that brought foreigners to Hawai`i two centuries ago. Missionary Lucy Thurston spent 157 days on her 1819-1820 voyage from New England to Kawaihae. A little over 5 months. 

HI-SEAS is currently planning two eight-month missions, one January to September 2017 and one January to September 2018.

Actually, eight months isn’t all that long. A group of mock Martians is, as this is written, completing a 12-month stay at the dome. It is HI-SEAS Mission Four. They get out at the end of August 2016.

The first such long-stay experiment was for four months, then another four-monther, then eight months, followed by the current year-long stay. Right now, there are six folks living in the 1200-square-foot dome.

Interested? A preliminary application form is here.

Some of the preliminary requirements are these:

“Applicants must be between 21 and 65 years of age. They must be tobacco-free, able to pass a class 2 flight physical examination, and able to understand, speak and write fluently in English. They must meet the basic requirements of the NASA astronaut program (i.e. an undergraduate degree in a science or engineering discipline, three years of experience or graduate study, etc.); in addition, they will be evaluated for experience considered valuable in the program, such as experience in complex operational environments.”

© Jan TenBruggencate 2016

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