University of Idaho mechanical engineering student Sophie Milam is about to find out what life is like on Mars, by spending eight months in seclusion in Hawaii.
Milam has been selected from hundreds of international applicants to participate in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS Mission 3, a project funded by the NASA Human Research Program that simulates a long-duration Mars mission here on Earth. Mission 3, the longest to date, begins Oct. 15 and will last for 273 days.
Milam and her five crewmates (three male, two female) will spend the next eight months in a two-story, 36-foot-diameter geodesic habitat on an abandoned lava quarry on the northern slope of the Hawaiian island of Mauna Loa.
Over the eight-month period, “mission support” researchers will continuously monitor the crew using surveillance cameras, body movement trackers and other methods to study the group’s cohesion over time, gathering data on a wide range of cognitive, social and emotional factors that may affect team performance.
“The HI-SEAS site presents a remarkably high-fidelity environment for this type of long-duration space study,” said University of Hawaii, Manoa’s Kim Binsted, the principal investigator for the study. “Looking out the single porthole window, all you can see are lava fields and Maunakea (a dormant volcano) in the distance. Once the door is closed, and the faux airlock sealed, the silence and physical separation contribute to the ‘long way from home’ experience of our crew members.”
Milam said she’s “over the moon” with excitement to start the adventure. “Or ‘over Mars’ is probably more applicable.”