Mauna Loa moon landing

  • Michaela Musilova in front of the HI-SEAS habitat on Mauna Loa. She is leading a crew on a new two-week research mission at the habitat. Courtesy photo

  • From left: Musilova, Weert, Pothier, Burstein, Sirikan and Mulder

HILO — A new two-week mission launched Wednesday at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation habitat located on the slopes of Mauna Loa.

Crew members will perform scientific experiments and test instruments needed for future explorations of the moon or Mars.

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The crew of six is under the command of UH-Manoa’s Michaela Musilova, chief investigator for HI-SEAS and the International MoonBase Alliance, according to a UH news release.

The mission is part of the EuroMoonMars initiative, led by the International Lunar Exploration Working Group of the European Space Agency in collaboration with the International MoonBase Alliance, European Space Research and Technology Centre, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and HI-SEAS.

For the past several years, the habitat was used as a Mars simulation.

“This mission is a moon mission rather than a Mars mission,” said Henk Rogers, founder of the International MoonBase Alliance, about the current endeavor. “Mars missions are months-long missions by nature because it takes eight months to travel to Mars and eight months to get back. Whereas moon missions take only three days to go and three days to come back.”

In the emailed comment, Rogers, who also owns the habitat, said another unique quality is that changes can be made between missions.

“In the Mars missions, we couldn’t change the conditions too much between missions because we wanted to be able to compare the psychology from crew to crew,” he said. “The moon missions now are all about figuring out how to build a better moon base. At the end of the mission, the crew will debrief and strategize improvements to the habitat, suit or system.

“We hope to keep improving the habitat between missions until we get as close as possible to the real thing,” Rogers continued.

According to its website, the International MoonBase Alliance is an association comprised of leading scientists, educators and entrepreneurs from space agencies and industries worldwide to advance the development and implementation of an international base on the moon.

“These missions are open to researchers around the world to take part in, provided their research will help contribute to the exploration and colonization of the moon and Mars,” Musilova said in the news release. She is unable to take calls during the mission.

Other crew members are Annelotte Weert, a Dutch geologist and master’s student at VU Amsterdam/ILEWG; Benjamin Pothier, a French explorer/anthropology researcher, Plymouth University, Explorers Club member and journalist; Josh Burstein, an American journalist, host of “Last Glimpse”; Nityaporn Sirikan, Thai/British/Italian systems engineer at ESA/ILEWG; Sebastian Mulder, a Dutch geochemist and master’s student at VU Amsterdam/ILEWG.

The research will include geological and drone surveys, small telescope work and will perform an experiment designed by high school students in Slovakia, who last year won a “Mission to Mars” competition organized by Musilova, the news release states.

“These missions can be of much shorter duration than the previous missions that took place at HI-SEAS,” Musilova said. “We also have a different application procedure, which should allow for more diverse people to take part in them. Our hope is to get more UH researchers and students involved in future missions.”

Located at the site of a former quarry, the dome habitat was previously used by HI-SEAS to test group cohesion and personality characteristics on long-term missions, such as to Mars.

HI-SEAS’ last grant-funded simulation ended abruptly last February when a crew member received an electric shock while in the dome. The crew member was transported to Hilo Medical Center per protocol but was quickly released.

The simulation ended because another crew member didn’t feel safe following the accident and didn’t want to return.

UH spokeswoman Kelli Abe Trifonovitch said researchers are still “data mining” all of HI-SEAS data from the first five missions related to team composition — including individual personalities, cognitive function and behavioral health changes.

Researchers also are developing a database of all HI-SEAS data funded by NASA to include data from collaborators.

The data collection and analysis are expected to be complete by the end of 2019, she said.

Interested crew member applicants or people with scientific project proposals for future missions can contact Musilova via email only during the current mission at musilova@moonbasealliance.com.

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The current mission is scheduled to end at noon March 6.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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