Astronauts visit the Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. PHOTO COURTESY OF HPA AT NHN
Astronauts visit the Energy Lab (PHOTO COURTESY OF HPA AT NHN)
The journey there is already happening. Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s top science students are monitoring and maintaining a key link in a long-term experiment to prepare for the first future human missions to the Red Planet.
HPA’s science students are in charge of the instrumentation for the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS, team experiment. All research data from the team, and all responses, will be sent via wireless links—telemetry—to support staff at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Cornell University.
To heighten the communication simulation between planets, the communications link has a built-in delay just like real communications would take between Mars and Earth. Even though communications travel at light speed, a one-way message can take 20 minutes or more.
NASA’s four-month HI-SEAS Big Island experiment is the first in a planned three-year series to study the challenges of Mars missions.
On April 16, six scientist-researchers entered a dome-shaped habitat at the 8,000-foot level of Mauna Loa. The researchers will spend 120 days in isolation, simulating living and working in a real Mars habitat. Their experiments will develop and practice mastery of several daily tasks essential to sustain human life in deep space.
The researchers’ primary task will be assessing and refining the best of various approaches to food preparation for both years-long space missions and permanent human outposts on Mars and the moon.
The six researchers visited HPA’s Energy Lab on April 12, to meet the students who will run the wireless links between the simulated Mars station and Earth.
During their HPA visit, the researchers listened intently as students described several of their other projects in the school’s self-directed science-research program.
Senior Duncan Michael wowed the NASA team with his student-built, inexpensive brain electrical-discharge scanner. Called an “Emotiv headset,” Michael recently flew a quad rotor over an audience at Macworld in San Francisco, using only his thoughts, while also talking about the device at the same time.
The Emotiv headset resembles a flexible, skeletal hand with electrode-sensor fingertip pads that grasp the exterior of a subject’s skull. The instrument has already been used in experiments with elementary school students, student Tori Massara told the team, “to see how brains change as they learn over time.”