Mars Rehearsal: NASA Scientists Conduct Training in Hawaii Volcano
NASA scientists are going to simulate their Mars mission in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The training, which will begin this week will prepare the researchers for the manned Mars mission which is expected to take place on 2030.
According to Hawaii Tribune Herald, the project is called BASALT or the Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains.
During the two-week training, the researchers will hike around Mauna Ulu to practice collecting rock samples, as they would on the Red Planet. The project will allow the researchers to learn how to correctly handle and protect biological samples taken from the Martian crust.
John Hamilton, an astronomy faculty member at the University of Hawaii at Hilo told Hawaii Tribune Herald: "Really, the whole reason of going to Mars is to see if there's life there. There's a lot of great geology. But are we alone?"
Christian Science Monitor notes that geologists and biologists will work hand-in-hand to develop protocols and search for new ways to prevent the contamination of rocks that might host living bacteria.
Why did the scientists choose Hawaii? As per the report, Hawaii's volcanic ridges and elevation is almost similar to Martian landscapes. Hawaii's volcano is mostly composed of basalt, the same mineral that composes most of the Martian surface.
As per Popular Mechanics, communication will also be delayed for five or 20 minutes to replicate the actual time-delay in communications between earth and mars.
The NASA grant is administered through the University of Hawaii-Hilo and The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems.
This is not the first training conducted in Hawaii.
NASA has previously conducted HI-SEAS project in the Big Island, particularly in Mauna Loa volcano. Whereas the BASALT aims to improve the quality of the samples taken, the HI-SEAS project aimed to test the psychological endurance of astronomers by placing them in a year-long isolation.