Exploration Research Analog, commonly known as HERA, has come to have a
reputation as one of the coolest
things at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. That says a lot when working in a place
filled with really cool things. Who
hasn’t secured an escort-only pass for a few hours to bring their mom on-site
to walk the catwalk of Building 9, or taken interns to the observation room of the
famed Mission Control Center? But HERA isn’t nearly as easy to get in to see,
because there is no convenient catwalk or observation room . . . and, it is a
project almost always in mission.
So when can you see HERA? Aside from very rare special
tours, Johnson team members are able to see HERA on ingress days (when the new
crew goes in) and egress days (when a
crew comes out).
In case this is the first you’ve heard of it, HERA is one of
only two human analogs located at Johnson. An analog is a situation on Earth
that produces effects on the body similar to those experienced in space — physical
and emotional. NASA is associated with at least 14 analog missions throughout
the world, and two are located here: HERA (in Building 220) and HESTIA (in Building 7).
What happens inside HERA? For a small compensation, four
“crew members” volunteer to live and work inside the habitat for 45 days while
pretending to go on a mission to Phobos, the largest moon of Mars. This
exercise helps researchers acquire more data regarding team dynamics and
behavioral health. These crew members are selected by the Test Subject
Selection group from applicants who have astronaut-like qualities.
Qualifications include a minimum education of a master’s degree in a STEM field
and the ability to pass a flight physical exam.
Johnson employees are welcome to attend the next HERA
ingress on Friday, Aug. 16. This will be the 20th HERA ingress and the seventh
to last 45 days. Ingress activities historically include a speech and the sharing
of cake before watching the new crew step inside the three-story habitat and
close the door for their 45-day mission.
If you’d like to attend the ingress, arrive at Building 220 by
7 p.m. HERA project coordinators ask that anyone who attends be free of illness, or symptoms of a possible
illness, to not expose the crew as they begin their mission.
The HERA XX crew members are Ryan Paldanius of Houston;
Amran Asadi of Stanford, California; Robert Ferguson of Atlanta; and Mounir
Alafrangy of Washington, D.C. This is the last HERA mission of the 2019
calendar year. The fourth and final mission for Campaign 5 will be in January.
NASA Johnson Space Center’s Test Subject Screening group is
accepting resumes 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.
Volunteers who wish to become test subjects
should visit: https://herastudy.jsc.nasa.gov/apply
The HERA habitat will be "home, sweet module" for 45 days after the HERA XX crew ingresses on Aug. 16. Image Credit: NASA
The crew approaches ingress.