UH Manoa scientist to participate in four-month Arctic Mars simulation mission

Landmark expedition will prepare for eventual human missions to the Red Planet

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kim Binsted, (808) 398-1300
Information and Computer Sciences
Kristen Bonilla, (808) 956-5039
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Apr 19, 2007

HONOLULU — University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa scientist Kim Binsted, an assistant professor in the Department of Information and Computer Sciences, is one of seven crew members from around the world that will participate in an unprecedented four-month Mars simulation mission beginning next month. Binsted will leave next Wednesday for the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) on Devon Island in the high Canadian Arctic, a location only 900 miles from the North Pole chosen for its striking similarity to the Red Planet.

Sponsored by The Mars Society, a private international grassroots organization dedicated to furthering the case for human exploration of Mars, the mission will stand as the longest and most isolated human Mars simulation mission ever conducted when it is completed. Its objective is to prepare for eventual human missions to the Red Planet by conducting scientific exploration under nearly all of the constraints that astronauts on an actual Mars mission will one day face.

Binsted will join the other six crew members, who come from the United States and Canada, in investigating field exploration techniques that would be relevant to the scientific exploration of Mars. She serves as the chief scientist on the crew and her role includes coordinating the collaboration between the crew and the "Earth-based" Science Advisory Group, carrying out the projects on which she is the crew lead, and being a "guinea pig" in several of the human factors experiments.

"We‘re excited about both doing the science and being the science," says Binsted. "By doing the field science under mission constraints, we‘ll face, and hopefully overcome, many of the same challenges that Mars explorers will face one day."

Some of the scientific projects that the crew will conduct include geological surveys, searching for evidence of past life, searching for evidence of extant life, and environmental and meteorological observations. In addition, investigating the role and optimal combination of human exploration, telepresence, robotic exploration, and the use of remote sensing tools are all part of the simulations.

The crew will be supported by a Remote Science Team composed of NASA, university and private scientists that will provide scientific and logistical assistance in a role analogous to that of mission support anticipated by NASA for future human Mars exploration missions.

Binsted participated in a two-week practice mission in February at The Mars Society‘s Mars Desert Research Station outside of Hanksville, Utah. While there, the crew conducted tasks such as familiarizing themselves with the space suits they will be required to wear every time they venture outside, learned to collaborate with the Remote Science Team, and spent an entire week in full simulation with almost all of the constraints of the Arctic mission in place.

"I‘m both pleased and relieved to be able to say that my crewmates are all smart, skilled and level-headed people. They‘re all easy to get along with, which is very important because living and working together in such a small space for such a long time will be very challenging."

During the four-month mission, Binsted will be posting messages on her blog, www.mars-ho.blogspot.com, with the latest news and details. The crew blog and more formal reports can be found on the mission website, www.fmars2007.org.

The Mars Society is a private international grassroots organization dedicated to furthering the case for human exploration of Mars. Since its founding in 1998, The Mars Society‘s strong commitment to both outreach and research has put it at the forefront of Mars exploration proponents, with 7,000 members in 40 countries. The organization currently operates multiple world class research facilities which investigate many technical and human factors associated with human space exploration. Significant political and public outreach has led to several hundred meetings with U.S. congressional offices, and has otherwise reached hundreds of millions of people through various media outlets. For more information about the Mars simulation mission, visit www.fmars2007.org.

For more information, visit: http://www.fmars2007.org