NASA Utilizes Simulated Base in Hawaii for Moon & Mars Missions
It should come as no surprise Sim Champs that NASA is currently utilizing simulation in innovative ways — with the Hawaii-based Simulation base which was training for Mars now being converted for recently announced Moon missions. The Atlantic recently covered the Simulated Base as it evolves into other training programs, a great article for our community to enjoy on this holiday week!
For the last five years, a small Mars colony thrived in Hawaii, many miles away from civilization. The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or hi-seas, was carried out in a small white dome nestled along the slope of a massive volcano called Mauna Loa. The habitat usually housed six people at a time, for as long as a year. They prepared freeze-dried meals, took 30-second showers to conserve water, and wore space suits every time they left the dome. To replicate the communication gap between Earth and Mars, they waited 20 minutes for their emails to reach their family members, and another 20 to hear back. Sometimes, as they drifted off to sleep, with nothing but silence in their ears, they really believed they were on Mars.
In February of this year, something went wrong. The latest and sixth mission was just four days in when one of the crew members was carried out on a stretcher and taken to a hospital, an Atlantic investigation revealed in June. There had been a power outage in the habitat, and some troubleshooting ended with one of the residents sustaining an electric shock. The rest of the crew was evacuated, too. There was some discussion of returning—the injured person was treated and released in the same day—but another crew member felt the conditions weren’t safe enough and decided to withdraw. The Mars simulation couldn’t continue with a crew as small as three, and the entire program was put on hold.
Under Rogers’s direction and funding, the hi-seas habitat will reopen this year—not as a Mars simulation, but a moon one. The first test simulations begin next week, and will last about two days. The regular simulations will last several weeks. Rogers plans to solicit research proposals from scientists from around the world. The makeover doesn’t mean that the Mars simulations are done for good. There will be a mission seven someday, said Kim Binsted, a professor at the University of Hawaii and the hi-seas principal investigator who, years ago, approached Rogers about building the habitat on Mauna Loa.
In the moon simulations, participants will be researchers instead of lab rats. They will conduct science experiments and test new technology aimed at surviving on the lunar surface, sometimes on behalf of researchers who provide the instruments but can’t reside on Mauna Loa. Like on the International Space Station, crews will rotate in and out as experiments hum along in the background.