HI-SEAS stands for "Hawaiʻi Space Exploration Analog and Simulation." It's a NASA-funded study led by researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. The goal of the program is to study aspects of crew cohesion and performance in the context of three simulated Mars surface missions of 4, 8, and 12 month durations in 2014-2016. You can read all about it and learn about the application details on the HI-SEAS website or in the UH press release. The application deadline is November 1, 2013.
While the study pertains primarily to human social factors, it also presents an opportunity for many other add-on research projects ranging from microbiology to robotics and geology. These activities provide realistic tasks that astronaut crews will likely carry out on a Mars mission. NASA wants to understand how teams of astronauts will perform on long-duration space exploration missions while doing relevant scientific and operational tasks. HI-SEAS will also provide recommended strategies for crew composition and how best to support crews while they are working in space.
I am fortunate to be one of the researchers involved with the HI-SEAS program in the areas of geology, crew selection, and mission support. The first HI-SEAS mission focused on food and lasted four months, ending in August 2013. During that mission, I coordinated an international group of mission support volunteers who helped facilitate the mission and presented on this work at the ICES 2013 Conference. I also helped prepare the crew for their mission the week before their mission began and was there to greet them when they emerged after four months of isolation. Below are some pictures of me at the HI-SEAS site last August. I'm going back there next week with the HI-SEAS science team to help plan the upcoming three missions.
It is fitting that we are announcing this opportunity during World Space Week, whose theme this year is "Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth." I can think of no better way to accomplish both of those goals than to get involved with Mars analog research activities. In addition to HI-SEAS, there are other planned long duration Mars analog missions on the horizon. For example, the Mars Society will launch its Mars Arctic 365 mission next summer at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island, Canada - a place I know well. In China, the Research Group of Advanced Life Support Technology at Beihang University will simulate a Mars mission in a habitat sporting a high fidelity biogenerative life support system that provides closed loop recycling of consumables like air and water for the crewmembers living inside. This is indeed an exciting time for Mars analog mission research!
Mashable Social Good Summit (#2030NOW) provided a forum for discussion of big ideas to make the world a better place. I took special interest in their "Ocean vs. Space: Which Is the True Final Frontier?" event, which pitted Alex Hall of the Google Lunar XPRIZE (#TeamSpace) against her colleague Dr. Paul Bunji of the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE (#TeamOcean).
What ensued was an engaging conversation about the relative merits of exploring our planet's ocean and space beyond. It wasn't as confrontational as the title made it out to be, as both Hall and Bunji held great affection for the other's area of exploration. Mashable's summary of the 15-minute debate covers the high points, but I encourage you to watch it for yourself:
So what do you think is the Final Frontier, the ocean or space?
NASA has awarded the University of North Dakota (UND) Department of Space Studies with the JSC Certificate of Appreciation in recognition for 25 years of outstanding leadership in university education in space studies, aerospace workforce development, and for accomplishments in interdisciplinary aerospace research. It is the highest award that the Johnson Space Center (JSC) bestows upon non-individual groups. As a UND Space Studies graduate myself, I want to personally congratulate everyone involved with the program on their well-earned recognition.
The 23 July 2013 awards ceremony at JSC was well-attended by UND alumni and students in the Houston area. Dr. Paul Lindseth, Associate Dean of the UND School of Aerospace Studies, Dr. Santhosh Seelan, Chair of the Department Space Studies, and Mr. Josh Christianson, Director of Alumni Affairs, accepted the award on behalf of all current and former UND Space Studies faculty, staff, and students. You can see them pictured below holding the award certificate, signed by JSC Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, along with a North Dakota flag that was flown on 200 orbits aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis during the final Space Shuttle Mission STS-135 in July 2011. They dedicated the award to John D. Odegard, who had the vision to start and nurture the Space Studies program at UND with the help of Dr. David Webb under the guidance of Dr. Buzz Aldrin.
Recognizing the accomplishment, UND alumnus astronaut Dr. Karen Nyberg tweeted the following from her perch on the ISS:
CONGRATS to my alma mater @myUND being recognized today w/ JSC Certificate of Appreciation. UND Dept of Space Studies, 25 yrs strong!
— Karen L. Nyberg (@AstroKarenN) July 24, 2013
On Friday, 2 August 2013, Nyberg will deliver the UND Summer Commencement address from the ISS, where she is currently serving a six-month mission as a crewmember on Expedition 36. The ceremony begins at 3:00 pm CDT and will be broadcast live on the internet.
The UND Department of Space Studies has launched hundreds of graduates onto successful aerospace careers. To learn more about the program's MS and (new) PhD academic options and its facilities like the exciting NASA-funded Human Spaceflight Lab and UND Obsevatory, click over to www.space.edu.
Last week I had the honor of representing HI-SEAS at the 43rd International Conference on Environmental Systems (ICES) in Vail, Colorado. With over 260 attendees, the meeting featured more than 200 technical presentations on topics related to human spaceflight, including environmental control and life support systems, thermal control systems, EVA systems, habitats, terrestrial analogs, and aerospace human factors. As a non-engineer, I found myself a bit out of my element, which made everything I learned all that more exciting. This post provides short summaries of the talks I found most interesting at the conference, as well as the poster I presented there.
SNC is one of three remaining competitors in NASA's Commercial Crew Program and is the only one using Shuttle heritage hardware. Later this summer, they will test their "Engineering Test Article" glider prototype by lifting it up with a sky crane, cutting the rope, and flying it back to Earth for a runway landing at 190 knots. Eventually, an Atlas V 402 will carry the Dream Chaser to orbit starting in 2016. The Dream Chaser can handle a wide range of missions with cargo, crew, or both and can hold up to 7 people.
HI-SEAS analog field research program in Hawaii. These conversations brought up some great ideas for potential future work in the program, and I made sure to let people know of the upcoming opportunistic collaboration opportunities too. HI-SEAS has received three additional years of funding from the NASA Human Research Program to support three more crewed missions beyond the one that is going on now. Learn more about it in my poster below:
Originally posted on 6/28/2013
Permafrost is frozen ground that forms where the subsurface mean annual temperature is colder than the freezing point of water. It should come as no surprise that permafrost underlies most of the Arctic and Antarctic regions on Earth. However, even close to the Equator, if you climb high enough in elevation, it will get cold enough for permafrost to form. The peaks of several mountains in tropical regions around the globe have permafrost, and one of them is in my backyard atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii. I went there last week to help conduct a geophysical field survey to study Hawaii's frozen feature and gain some insights about low latitude permafrost on Mars.
University of Hawaii meteorologist Dr. Alfred Woodcock first discovered permafrost on the north-facing slope of the Mauna Kea summit crater Pu'u Wekiu in 1969 (elevation 4,200 meters) and returned several times to study it throughout the early 1970's. He found that even though the mean annual air temperature was well above freezing, ground temperatures were low enough in the shadows of the crater wall slopes for ice to persist, likely due to local trapping of nocturnal cold air lakes. Through in situ borehole measurements and a small seismic refraction survey, he was able to determine that the permafrost extended down about 10 meters beneath the tropical island volcano's tallest cinder cone crater.
This finding was largely forgotten by the scientific community for 40 years until University of Hawaii astrophysicist Dr. Norbert Schörghofer started investigating the persistence of Hawaii permafrost as an analog to subsurface ice on Mars in 2009. With support from the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the State of Hawaii's Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM), he conducted a series of small pilot studies to deploy infrared cameras and image the diurnal temperature variations in several of the summit craters. Sure enough, the north-facing crater walls were colder than the surroundings and could harbor ice.
Dr. Kenji Yoshikawa (aka: Tunnel Man) from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where I was once an intern 15 years ago. Together, Norbert and Kenji deployed dataloggers to measure long-term air and regolith temperatures in several craters near the Mauna Kea summit. Their readings corroborated Woodcock's measurements of lapse rate (the way temperature decreases with depth), indicating that permafrost shouldn't exist on Mauna Kea below about 5,000 meters elevation at all. The fact that Woodcock discovered it at 4,200 meters points to the significance of a microclimate effect to enable permafrost to exist even in places where it normally wouldn't. Maybe such microclimate effects could also allow for stable water ice to exist in shadowed craters on Mars permafrost on Mars as well.
In January 2013, I entered the picture as a Ph.D. student looking for a project that combined planetary science with geophysical observations and field work. This opportunity fit my interests and background perfectly since it combines studying important environmental and astrobiological conditions on both Earth and Mars. I started working with Norbert to enhance the processing of his infrared imaging data and am happy to have now had the chance to apply my expertise in exploration geophysics to the project with our recent resistivity survey.
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