NASA scientists practice for Mars mission… in Hawaii?

Researchers will travel to Hawaii for the next phase of training for the Mars mission.

NASA has been gearing up for an eventual mission to our closest planetary neighbor, Mars. The trip requires a significant amount of planning, however, and NASA is hoping to nail every last detail before sending astronauts into the unknown.

According to a recent report from West Hawaii today, scientists have taken to the rocky terrain of Hawaii’s volcanic landscape to practice collecting rock samples in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Over the course of the coming weeks, researchers will traverse the mountain Mauna Ulu to perfect their collection procedures to ensure they learn as much as possible from the manned trip to the red planet.

The ultimate goal of collecting geologic samples from Mars would be to identify signs of life on the planet. Probes like Curiosity have been indispensable so far in learning about the makeup of the planet’s geologic and biological history, but sending actual scientists to continue the research represents a huge leap forward in understanding Mars.

The research in Hawaii, according to astronomer John Hamilton from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, will not involve spacesuits or advanced machinery just yet – researchers are simply training to correctly handle samples taken from the Martian crust.

There will, however, be a mission control station set up with delayed responses while communicating with the researchers in the field, to mimic the time delay for sending messages between Earth and Mars. A statement from NASA describing the details of the project can be found below.

Welcome to the BASALT (Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains) research program website! We are an international team of scientists, engineers, mission operators, and astronauts who are dedicated to enabling the human-robotic exploration of Mars. Starting in Summer 2015, the BASALT team will begin fieldwork in Idaho and Hawai’i to understand the habitability of terrestrial volcanic terrains as analog environments for early and present-day Mars. Our scientific fieldwork will be conducted under simulated Mars mission constraints to evaluate strategically selected concepts of operations (ConOps) and capabilities with respect to their anticipated value for the joint human and robotic exploration of Mars. To learn more about our research, click on the Mission link.

Check-in for regular updates on our team’s research accomplishments, field adventures and outreach events. If you have any questions, please reach out to the BASALT team anytime!

Follow along with the BASALT research crew at BASALT_research as we embark on our second field deployment to conduct real science under simulated Mars missions, and ultimately to help enable NASA’s Journey to Mars.  This time, the Extra-vehicular field crew will be working around Mauna Ulu on the Big Island of Hawai`i, while supported by a diverse Science Team that will be located at the Kilauea Military Camp nearly 12 km away.  These two groups will be interacting via simulated Mars mission communication delays that will range from 5 to 15 mins in length one-way (or 10-30min round trip delay), which will help the team identify operational concepts and capabilities that enable science and discovery when humans explore Mars.

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