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HERA XX ‘Takes Off’ Aug. 16

Monica Edwards |
August 15, 2019

The Human 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:

The HERA habitat will be "home, sweet module" for 45 days after the HERA XX crew ingresses on Aug. 16. Image Credit: NASA

HERA XX patch.
The crew approaches ingress.
The crew approaches ingress.