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An out-of-this-world simulation—right here, right now

May 10, 2018

HERA Campaign 4, Mission 5 (XVII) is underway

The crew members of NASA Johnson Space Center’s newest Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) mission went into their isolated, out-of-this-world module—that happens to reside in Building 220—on May 4. HERA XVII, a replacement for mission XIV that was forced to end early due to Hurricane Harvey, will last 45 days and is packed with investigations, science and research. The crew will be monitored throughout their entire stay and analyzed on a variety of research objectives, including: behavioral health and performance, communication and autonomy studies, human factors, isolation, light and dark cycles, and medical capabilities assessments (among others). 

During their time in the module, the crew will also complete a simulated mission to the asteroid “Graphos” and perform spacewalks through Virtual Reality technology.

HERA crew moments before they enter their home away from home for the next 45 days. Image credit: Kevin Ramos
The HERA crew moments before they enter their home away from home for the next 45 days. Image Credit: Kevin Ramos

Fun Facts About HERA XVII:
  • Crew members are: Chiemi Heil, William Daniels, Michael Pecaut and Eleanor Morgan.
  • One of the crew members is a #NASAintern.
  • Due to the ingress on May 4 (also known as “Star Wars” Day), the crew incorporated several “Star Wars” themes into their mission patch design.

Mission Patch Design: 
  • Four white stars signify this as the fourth HERA campaign.
  • There are four yellow stars for each crew member.
  • There are several “Star Wars” themes, like the two logos “sit vis vobiscum” and the crew’s names written in “Star Wars” font.
  • The big orange circle is the asteroid Graphos.
  • The hurricane logo honors the crew that was forced to evacuate. A star inside the hurricane represents the current crew.  
About HERA:  
HERA began in 2014 with a campaign of four seven-day-long missions. Subsequent campaigns saw missions reach 14 and 30 days long. Missions for this campaign, Campaign 4, are 45 days long.
HERA is an isolated, confined and controlled analog environment used by the Human Research Program to conduct studies aimed at reducing risks to astronauts who will fly on long-duration exploration missions. Analogs such as the HERA are used to study physiological, behavioral and social aspects that may be experienced during extended forays in space. HERA simulates a space habitat in which crew members have limited access to the outside world. They are without internet, TV, phones and radios as the mission unfolds.

Using a variety of simulations and a timeline similar to that on the International Space Station, crews conduct mission-like tasks and engage in research activities. Those activities might involve performing certain tasks where performance is evaluated; wearing devices that measure physiological parameters; taking surveys; and providing blood, saliva and/or urine samples. During the current campaign, 18 different research investigations are being completed. Each mission produces more than 6,500 data points for the various researchers involved. 
All of this data will not only help characterize behavioral or physiological responses but, ultimately, lead to the development of countermeasures, spacecraft design features and operational paradigms that will help ensure crew safety and success for the high level of performance that spaceflight demands.
Couldn’t watch the crew enter the HERA habitat? Watch the Facebook Live recording on Johnsons’s Facebook page:
Interested in learning more about HERA or possibly volunteering for the next analog? Learn more here:
Sandra Jones
NASA Johnson Space Center

HERA XVII mission patch. Image Credit: NASA
HERA XVII mission patch. Image Credit: NASA