No sun on your skin, breeze on your face or
favorite meals for 45 days and nights. Seclusion from family and friends. Sounds
painful, but you’d actually be helping NASA get future astronauts safely to the
and onto Mars.
Could you do it? At least 24 space enthusiasts in the last year-and-a-half
have done just this—without ever leaving Earth. The latest crew of four emerged
from their isolation mission on July 8.
The Human Exploration Research
Analog, or HERA, is located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. With characteristics
of a generic crewed spacecraft, HERA is a ground-based analog used by
NASA’s Human Research Program to study the effects of
isolation and confinement on humans. NASA is planning a human mission to the Moon in 2024. Researchers use analogs like
HERA to develop safeguards to the hazards of spaceflight.
discovered the HERA program when I saw a call for participants for an analog
mission in Russia,” said Julie Mason of Huntsville, Alabama. “From that, I
found the Johnson Space Center website for HERA, read through it and found it
to be really interesting. I have a lot of interest in NASA and I realized I was
qualified. I wanted to see what it was like to work in an isolated
was the 19th HERA analog
mission and the sixth to run for 45 days. The time seemed to go by quickly, as
the crew had plenty to keep them busy.
days were very structured. We really enjoyed the activities that involved the
whole crew,” said Barret Schlegelmilch of Kent, Washington. “The Extravehicular
Activity that we did using virtual reality was a lot of fun. This involved two
people who flew the exploration vehicle from Polaris (our spacecraft) to Phobos
(the largest moon of Mars). It took a lot of coordination and clear
communication between the team members.”
crew also worked with a “ROBoT” onboard
simulator similar to the one used on the International Space Station.
mentally engaging, interesting and fun to work with hardware that’s similar to
what astronauts actually use on the space station,” Schlegelmilch said.
crew believed showing their employers and family the value of HERA helped get
their support, which was critical to being able to leave their normal life for
The HERA XIX crew emerged from their habitat after 45 days of
simulating a space voyage to Phobos, the largest moon of Mars. NASA is looking
for future HERA participants for this important isolation and confinement
research. Image Credit: NASA
Clark from Honolulu said, “I was worried about the time off, but my employer
believed in what I was going to do.”
managers are always in search of new crewmates who are willing to step out of
their daily life to help advance science.
critically important we find suitable volunteers, people who mimic or emulate
the type of people that are selected for astronauts,” said Lisa Spence, Flight
Analogs program manager. “It is work that is essential to keeping astronauts
safe and healthy for long-duration spaceflight.”
anyone who thinks they may have what it takes to participate in a future HERA
mission, a participant in the recent HERA XIX mission has some advice for you.
with an open mind, and be willing to work with others,” Clark said.
believes buying into the scenario you are given is important. “Get immersed into
the mission. Really think about it as a trip to Mars. Let yourself get wrapped
up in that. HERA’s mission control does a great job of making it a reality for
Mission XX will begin in August, followed by one more Campaign 5 mission in
Johnson Space Center’s Test Subject Screening group is accepting résumés for healthy, non-smoking volunteers ages 30 to
55 for future missions. Volunteers will be compensated, and must pass a
physical and psychological assessment to qualify.
who wish to become test subjects should visit: https://herastudy.jsc.nasa.gov/apply
NASA's Human Research Program, or HRP, is
dedicated to discovering the best methods and technologies to support safe,
productive human space travel. HRP enables space exploration by reducing the
risks to astronaut health and performance using ground research facilities, the
International Space Station and analog environments. This leads to the
development and delivery of an exploration biomedical program focused on:
informing human health, performance, and habitability standards; developing
countermeasures and risk-mitigation solutions; and advancing habitability and
medical-support technologies. HRP supports innovative, scientific human
research by funding more than 300 research grants to respected universities,
hospitals and NASA centers to over 200 researchers in more than 30 states.
One of the first tasks of each four-person crew is designing their own graphic identifier for the mission. HERA XIX crew member Barret Schlegelmilch attaches theirs to the door of the vessel. This is the symbolic ritual of a successful mission. Image Credit: NASA