UH Manoa scientist completes four-month Arctic Mars simulation mission

Mission deemed a success as seven-member crew gained critical information in preparation for eventual human missions to Mars

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kim Binsted, (808) 398-1300
Information and Computer Sciences
Kristen Bonilla, (808) 956-5039
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Sep 25, 2007

HONOLULU — University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa scientist Kim Binsted, an associate professor in the Department of Information and Computer Sciences, is back on campus after spending four months on Mars — pretending to be on Mars, that is. Binsted was one of seven crew members from the United States and Canada that successfully participated in an unprecedented four-month Mars simulation mission on Devon Island in the Canadian High Arctic, a location only 900 miles from the North Pole chosen for its striking similarity to Mars.

The long-duration simulated Mars mission operated smoothly from April through August, quadrupling the previous record for an active Mars mission simulation and providing critical information for eventual human missions to the Red Planet. The mission was sponsored by The Mars Society, a private international grassroots organization dedicated to furthering the case for human exploration of Mars.

"Hopefully, the data from this mission will show that at least some of the obstacles to the manned exploration of Mars can be overcome with careful crew selection, training, and countermeasures for the stresses of prolonged spaceflight," said Binsted, who served as the chief scientist on the crew.

Following the mission completion, Binsted and the crew flew directly to the 10th International Mars Society Convention held recently at UCLA to present their preliminary results and share their experiences.

The Canadian-American crew of the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) conducted a comprehensive program of geological and microbiological field exploration in Devon Island‘s Mars-like polar desert, all the while operating under many of the same constraints that human explorers would face on Mars. Seven human factors experiments were completed, including comprehensive sleep and exercise studies. The crew also operated for over a month on the Martian ʻsol,‘ which is 39 minutes longer than the 24-hour Earth day, to see if there were any negative effects on crew psychophysiology or mission operations.

"I‘m so proud of the crew," said Binsted. "We spent four months together doing great science, and recording our every move for the human factors studies, and we never tried to kill each other."

The crew completed a wide range of field research. In particular, they gathered data on microbial life in soil, snow and lakes, characterizing the changes as the Arctic season shifts from spring into summer. They also compared geological features seen on Mars, such as polygonal patters and "weeping cliffs," with similar features found on Devon Island, in order to better understand conditions on the red planet.

Binsted will now take the data gathered during the mission and complete the "at home" lab work and data analysis. The crew hopes will distribute the data via peer-reviewed journal papers and conference presentations. For more information about the mission, including photos and daily reports that were sent back by the crew, visit www.fmars2007.org. A final summary report filed by the crew is also available online at The Mars Society website, www.marssociety.org.

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