Hidden away from the lush landscape of Hawai‘i’s Big Island featured in vacation photos and nestled at more than 2,400 metres’ elevation on the northern slope of Mauna Loa lies a dusty red landscape
Hidden away from the lush landscape of Hawai‘i’s Big Island featured in vacation photos and nestled at more than 2,400 metres’ elevation on the northern slope of Mauna Loa lies a dusty red landscape. Here sits a white geodesic dome, intended to replicate the structure a space crew would call home during a long mission on Mars.
The HI-SEAS (Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) habitat is in an abandoned cinder rock quarry. The area is surrounded by recent lava flows, with little plant or animal life present. The desolate landscape is an ideal stand-in for Mars. The HI-SEAS project, funded by NASA and led by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, studies human behavior and performance and aims to help determine individual and team requirements for long-term space exploration missions, including travel to Mars. A University of Victoria researcher has a key role in the project. Olav Krigolson will study how the astronauts’ brain function might be affected by the rigours and stress of space travel.
“It’s really kind of eerie,” says Olav Krigolson, (BEd ’97, PhD ’07) of the habitat. “It looks like Mars, it’s in the middle of a red volcanic field, and in the distance you can see Hawai‘i—or what Hawai‘i is supposed to look like,” laughs the UVic neuroscientist, researcher and the Associate Director of the Centre for Biomedical Research. A Mars mission would take an estimated three years to complete.
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Image via University of Victoria.