(Editor’s note, February 26HI-SEASS Mission VI has been cancelled as a crew member has voluntarily withdrawn their participation in the study. Regrettably, it is not possible to perform a mission with a crew of three. Further, an investigation is ongoing into an incident which occurred on February 19, 2018, temporarily suspending the mission. After a full safety inspection of the habitat has been performed, a new call for applicants will be released to compose a new crew for another mission based on a review by the institutional review board.)

(Editor’s note, February 19—A crew member of the HI-SEAS Mission VI was admitted to the Hilo Medical Center for required medical attention and was under observation for a few hours before being released.)

Under Institutional Research Board regulations, no further medical information can be provided without the crew member’s permission. Crew safety is the top priority and, in line with safety protocols, the mission has been postponed and the crew has left the dome, according to HI-SEAS Principal Investigator Kim Binsted. The mission will remain suspended until an inspection of the dome and investigation are completed.)

On the afternoon on February 15, 2018, as a light drizzle fell, four astronaut-like crewmembers entered the geodesic dome at the 8,200 foot level of Mars-like Mauna Loa, their home on Hawaiʻi Island for the next eight months.

They are participants in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Mission VI. The isolated HI-SEAS habitat is approximately 13,000 cubic feet and has sleeping quarters for six, a kitchen, laboratory, bathroom and simulated airlock.

The habitat shelters the most international crew in the project’s history, hailing from Australia, Korea, Scotland and Slovakia. It is also the first four-member crew.

Science Officer Michaela Musilova said, “I think in the first few weeks and months we’ll have to get used to the fact that it’s just going to be the four of us here with all the restricted conditions we’ll be living in—whether food, the lack of proper communication with Earth and having to deal with all various problems that are going to occur just by ourselves.”

The simulation includes a communications delay each way of 20 minutes and the use of only shelf-stable ingredients in food preparation.

“My personal challenge will be the (shelf-stable) food because I like to eat good food, fresh food, but I’ll try to be creative to make something that can be enjoyable for all of our crew members,” said Crew Commander Sukjin Han.

The eight-month research study of human behavior and performance aims to help determine the individual and team requirements for long-duration space missions.

Principal Investigator and UH Mānoa Professor Kim Binsted said, “If we are going to go to Mars or other destinations in the solar system, we have to make sure that we are prepared—that we have the right people and the right equipment and we put them together in a way that’s going to get people there and back again safely.”

A keyboard
The addition of a keyboard gives the crewmembers another opportunity to relax

A recent addition to the habitat—a piano-like keyboard—may help to break the monotony. Chief Engineer Calum Hervieu has been known to tickle the ivories.

Hervieu, who hails from Scotland, said he is excited to be there: “It’s a chance to do science in a completely different way. It’s a chance to experience analogs and bring that back to Europe as well, where I’m from.”

Although the four-person crew will be dividing up tasks that were previously accomplished by six-person crews, they have ambitious plans for the months ahead.

Said Communications Specialist Lisa Stojanovski, “I think what I’m really excited about for this mission is the ability to bring everyone else along for the journey with us. So I’m hoping to do lots of education and outreach and get community involved about this mission and why space exploration and Mars exploration is so important.”

Read more UH News stories about HI-SEAS missions.

—By Kelli Trifonovitch