Space simulation crew hits halfway mark and sets sights on August re-entry


The University of Hawai‘i's HI-SEAS Mars-simulation crew has hit the halfway mark of their mission.
The University of Hawai‘i’s HI-SEAS Mars-simulation crew has hit the halfway mark of their mission.

The six crew members of the fourth Hawaiʻi Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS,  have spent more than six months of of their 12-month mission in a solar-powered dome on the slopes of Mauna Loa.  The crew has been living in isolation as part of a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa research project simulating long-duration space travel. “Itʻs fun to know you’ve made it halfway,” said  crewmember Tristan Bassingthwaighte.  The Doctor of Architecture candidate at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa said, “Getting halfway is a great validation in the work you’re doing for yourself, academically or just personally.  You also find you’re listening to ʻLife on Marsʻ by David Bowie a lot more often.”

This fourth mission is the longest  in HI-SEAS history. As with the previous two missions in the NASA funded study, the current mission is focused on crewmember cohesion and performance.

The Commander, Carmel Johnston, a soil scientist from Montana, said that she is looking forward to seeing her family.  “It will be really fun to go swimming in the ocean, go for a run, feel the wind, smell the rain and other smells of nature, and be able to walk in a straight line that is longer than 20 feet,” she said.  “Those things aside, life in the dome is pretty awesome.”

The crew is scheduled to emerge from the habitat in August 2016.  In 2015, NASA awarded HI-SEAS a third grant to keep the research project and its missions funded through 2019

For more on HI-SEAS, go to:

2015-2016 HI-SEAS crew members

  • Tristan Bassingthwaighte is currently a Doctor of Architecture candidate at UH Mānoa. He has completed his Master’s degree in architecture from Tongji University in Shanghai, where he studied abroad for a year looking at human habitation in extreme environments. His doctoral work involves designing a next generation conceptual Mars habitat.
  • Sheyna Gifford has worked on research projects in astrophysics, neuroscience and psychology and is a contributor to NASA educational websites, a medical writer and an advocate of STEM education. Her previous work includes working on the HESSI satellite at Space Science Laboratories. She holds a bachelor of science in neuroscience and english, a masters of clinical laboratory science and biotechnology, a masters of science in journalism, a doctor of medicine and is currently earning a master of business administration.
  • Christiane Heinicke is a German physicist and engineer. Most recently she has worked on sea ice and has also gained experience working with polar lights, metal melts, and simulations of the Earth’s mantle. She received her bachelor of science in applied physics from the Ilmenau University of Technology in Germany and her master of science in geophysics from Uppsala University in Sweden.
  • Carmel Johnston is a soil scientist from Whitefish, Montana. Her previous research focused on the effects of permafrost thaw on trace gas emissions in peatlands. Her interest in global food production and sustainability lead her to HI-SEAS to research food production in Mars simulation. She has a bachelor of science in soil and water science and a master in science in land resources and environmental sciences from Montana State University.
  • Andrzej Stewart is an ardent light aircraft pilot and previously worked at Lockheed Martin as an interplanetary flight controller. He’s worked on console for the Spitzer Space Telescope, Mars Odyssey, MRO, MAVEN, J uno and GRAIL.  Recently, he served as the flight engineer for the sixth mission of NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA), simulating a two-week journey to asteroid 1620 Geographos. He earned a bachelor of science in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005 and an SM in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT in 2007.
  • Cyprien Verseux is a doctorate student at the University of Rome. He is an astrobiologist working on the search for life beyond Earth and is also an expert in biological life support systems for Mars exploration. Part of his research aims at making human outposts on Mars as independent as possible of Earth, by using living organisms to process Mars’s resources into products needed for human consumption.


Link to new video and soundbites from inside the HI-SEAS habitat:

B-Roll TRT 1:30


:00    :09    female crewmember jogging on treadmill at porthole

:09    :18    close-up, hands on rolling pin making pastry

:18    :27    Carmel Johnston cooking in frying pan

:27    :36    wide shot, one cooking, one on treadmill

:36    :45    Tristan Bassingthwaighte at computer

:45    :54    crew in green suits walking on lava rock

:54    1:08    crewmember launching aerial drone

1:08    1:38    aerial shot of HI-SEAS habitat and surrounding area on Mauna Loa


Tristan Bassingthwaighte, HI-SEAS crew architect, Doctor of Architecture candidate, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa(:24)

“I’m hoping time slows down for the second half, but it’s kind of – ah you made it to the midway point so you don’t think it will be all that hard to do the rest of it. I still feel pretty fresh.  The beach is only six months away.  Good acai is only six months away.  All your friends and stuff who totally did not email you are much as they said they would are only six months away from punishment.”

Carmel Johnston, HI-SEAS commander, soil scientist, National Resources Conservation Service(:20)

“One of the things I’m really looking forward to is getting to walk in a straight line for more than 20 feet without a spacesuit on and being able to see my feet underneath me and go swimming and do a lot of the outdoor activities that I really enjoy doing on normal earth and I’ll be able to do those again once we reenter back to earth.”

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