Mission to Mars: HI-SEAS crew member Yajaira ventures out of the habitat and onto the barren, Mars-like volcano
- A six-person research mission to the Mars-like terrain of a Hawaiian volcano ends today
- The crew's aim was to learn about living and cooking on Mars
- They lived in a geodesic dome and only ventured outside fully kitted out in spacesuits
A $1 million NASA research mission is nearing completion as six crew members prepare to come back down to Earth - from the slope of a Hawaiian volcano.
HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) aims to address problems that may be encountered in future space missions by simulating exploration in areas of the world similar to space environments.
The aim of this first mission, funded by NASA’s Human Research Program, the University of Hawaii and Cornell University, was to learn about living and cooking in Mars.
Dome home: The geodesic dome the six HI-SEAS crew members have called home for the past four months
Food lab: The crew's main mission was to test food preparation strategies for future Mars missions
The HI-SEAS mission’s crew have spent the past four months 8000 feet above sea level in a geodesic-dome habitat on the northern slope of the Mauna Loa volcano.
The volcano is a barren landscape, an abandoned quarry with little vegetation that's as similar to Mars' landscape as planet Earth can get.
The crew members have been living under Mars-like conditions. According to HI-SEAS 'communication latencies and blackouts, in close quarters, under strict water-use rules, etc' are part of the deal.
The food study was designed to test food preparation strategies for long-term space exploration.
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Food lab: Crew member Yajaira gets creative in the kitchen
The crew: HI-SEAS' first team has spent four months on the side of a volcano in Hawaii
'Some success meals were Russian borscht, Moroccan tagine, enchilasagna, seafood chowder, and fabada asturiana. Wraps work really well: we combine tortillas, different vegetables, Velveeta cheese, and sausage or canned fish into ever-changing combinations,' HI-SEAS Commander Angelo Vermeulen toldAstrobiology Magazine.
The freeze-dried vegetables were a big hit, he said, and were used in almost every meal.
But, he added, 'The freeze-dried meat is only really enjoyable when used in meals. In itself it’s too bland and hardly has any aroma.'
There were also some meals that the crew won't be advocating for a real mission to Mars.
'Our least favorite pre-prepared meal must be "Kung Fu Chicken,"' said Vermeulen.
'The texture of the meal could be best described as "slimy."'
Vermeulen's Mars must-haves include spices, herbs, hot sauce Nutella, peanut butter and margarine.
The HI-SEAS crew has also been experimenting with remote controlled robotic arms to grow food crops in a hydroponic 'robotic farm'.
Some crew members have been practicing terrain exploration, leaving their habitat and venturing outside, fully kitted out in their spacesuits, onto the barren lava field to conduct experiments with thermal imaging, geological identification, and microbiological detection.
NASA is also comparing various fabrics and 'anti-microbial treatments' for clothing worn in space, to test exactly how long clothing can be worn before it's found 'objectionable' to the wearer.
The crew is due to exit the Hawaiian habitat on Monday, 13 August.