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A SIRIUS International Isolation Study

April 29, 2019

A NASA researcher is participating in an international isolation study hosted by the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in an effort to learn more about how to best predict, assess and solve problems that humans encounter while living and working in space for long periods so that they can be applied to future missions to the Moon and Mars. 

Two Americans and four Russians stepped through the hatch of the Ground-based Experimental Complex, or by its Russian name Nazemnyy eksperimental'nyy kompleks (NEK), on March 19 at the IBMP in Moscow.

The SIRIUS 18/19 crew poses with representatives from the United States, Russia, NASA and IBMP at the American Embassy. Image courtesy of the American Embassy.

The four-month NEK Scientific International Research in Unique terrestrial Station (SIRIUS)-18/19 test is the second analog mission in a series of four that study the effects of isolation and confinement on human psychology, physiology and team dynamics to help prepare astronauts for long-duration space exploration. For astronauts traveling to the Moon and Mars, isolation and confinement are among the key hazards to overcome.

NASA’s Allen Mirkadyrov of the Goddard Spaceflight Center joined fellow American Reinhold Povilaitis and Russians Anastasia Stepanova, Stefania Fedyai, Daria Alekseevna Zhidova and Evgeny Igorevich Tarelkin. Mirkadyrov left his normal job as the Telecommunication Networks and Technology Associate branch head to join this team.

NASA’s Human Research Program, dedicated to protecting astronauts’ health and performance, is responsible for NASA research conducted during analogs. Research missions such as SIRIUS serve as model platforms for studying not only isolation and behavioral health and performance, but also simulate training for such missions. NASA uses other analogs, such as the Aquarius undersea habitat for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations off the coast of Key Largo, Florida, the Human Exploration Research Analog at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and various Antarctica missions for this purpose as well.

Future missions in the SIRIUS series, occurring in 2020 and 2021, will be longer in duration (eight months and one year, respectively), and these scenarios include travel to and orbit of the Moon. These simulations will aid researchers in developing plans and protocols for deep spaceflight. 

The SIRIUS missions will also allow researchers to study the effects of isolation and confinement on human physiology and psychology to better develop countermeasures for any negative health impacts.

Research findings from the SIRIUS missions will be assessed to determine how they contribute to the evidence base to assist NASA in understanding effective crew composition for future Mars mission.

To learn about the Human Research Program, go to: