HI-SEAS: After four months on simulated Mars, team is as strong as ever

Space analog study aims at new insights into crew cohesion, team performance factors

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kim Binsted, (808) 398-1300
Associate Professor
Talia S Ogliore, (808) 956-4531
Public Information Officer, Vice Chancellor for Research
Posted: Jul 25, 2014

The HI-SEAS crew and PI Kim Binsted (far right) celebrate the completion of the study.
The HI-SEAS crew and PI Kim Binsted (far right) celebrate the completion of the study.

LINK FOR VIDEO AND SOUND (more information below):  http://bit.ly/1qExX9q

Real astronauts would be jealous:  re-entry was just that easy.

For the crew members of the Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission, returning to Earth after four months on simulated Mars was as simple as opening a faux airlock door.

Blinking and smiling in the harsh sunlight, the researchers stepped across the threshold and into the welcoming arms of their ground support crew and other observers gathered early on Friday morning. These were the first people outside of their own small group that the researchers have touched or seen since they entered their remote space habitat on the slopes of Mauna Loa on March 28.

“This crew has proven to be a strong team throughout the duration of the study,” said Kim Binsted, associate professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and principal investigator for the HI-SEAS research effort. “By monitoring their inter-personal interactions, especially during times of stress, we’re learning more about the social and emotional factors that determine astronaut crew cohesion.  This is a big gap for NASA right now.”

Under the HI-SEAS study, Binsted and her collaborators have used video cameras, electronic surveys, crew reports and other sources to keep a watchful eye on the crew inside the habitat.

“Being isolated from the world is tough to deal with, even when you’ve got company,” Binsted said. “HI-SEAS will help us to understand how teams of astronauts will perform under the isolation conditions required for long-duration space travel—such as the kind of trips it would take for humans to get to Mars.”

It takes an unmanned spacecraft between 150 to 300 days to travel between Earth and the red planet.  Scientists estimate that a manned journey to Mars will take around three years, round trip.

In addition to the crew cohesion study, each of the researchers brought his or her own research project to complete while on simulated Mars.  These projects focused on growing plants for human consumption in space, a trash-to-energy conversion study, and the utility of 3D printed surgical tools, among other topics.

The current mission is the first – and shortest – of three new space analog missions focused on human performance factors currently planned for the HI-SEAS habitat site on Mauna Loa, Hawaiʻi.  Crew members have not yet been announced for the eight-month mission scheduled to kick off this October.  A year-long mission will begin in 2015.

The public is invited to peruse the researcher blogs, videos, and photos from the current and previous HI-SEAS missions at http://hi-seas.org/.

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Video Log (1:50):

:00 - :04  Wide Shot of HI-SEAS habitat
:05 - :38  Crew members start emerging from habitat
:39 -:50  Crew members at news conference
:51-1:07  5 shots of the habitat's interior
1:08 - 1:22  4 shots of crew members having fresh food
1:23 - 1:40  2 shots of crew members in their bedrooms
1:41 - 1:50  Crew member walking in space suit outside habitat



Anne Caraccio/Crew Member -- Chief Engineer/ Florida:

We were essentially strangers getting here.  So when we were placed into the habitat in such a confined space you kind of learned everybody's personality and their likes and dislikes.  Luckily this crew was outstanding in the fact that they are very hard workers, they all wanted to perform well on the mission and help each other out as a team.  (:19 )


Ron Williams/Original Crew Member/Indiana (on greeting his former colleagues as they emerged from the habitat):

I was tearful.  Just happy to see them.  Very, very proud of them to make it through and for what they contributed. ( :09 )


Lucie Poulet/Crew Member/France (Lucie conducted several experiments growing lettuce, radishes, peas and tomatoes):

Most of the crew really enjoyed seeing the plants grow and each time we had the fruit coming it was oh my God there's a tomato, there are flowers, oh my God there's a pea growing... oh my God it's red. We can eat it!   I harvested them so it was great to see that! (:19 )


(Response to question -- What's the first thing you'd like to do now that you're free?)

Just being here enjoying the wind, the sun and the fresh fruits.  But then I know we're in Hawaiʻi. I'd really like to see the ocean actually.  I've never been on the beach here.  (:14)

It's fun to think that I've spent four months in Hawaiʻi and I've never seen the beach!   (:06)


Casey Stedman/Commander/Ohio (on challenges:)

We couldn't escape from it, so you have to learn to adapt.  Adjust your schedules to other people, you adjust the way you react to things.  You learn about other people and you learn about compromise.  (:15)

Sometimes it was like when you're on a family vacation as a kid and you're trapped in the backseat with your brothers and sisters. You can't escape.  You either get along or it's going to be a miserable trip. (:10)


PHOTOS AVAILABLE:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/uhmanoa/sets/72157642876081893/

For more information, visit: http://hi-seas.org/