Scientists have revealed details of the research station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, for the exploration of Mars and the Moon. Because the site presents environments similar to the research targets, there experts conduct experiments on underground volcanic lava tubes to simulate conditions and challenges to be faced. faced in future colonies on the Red Planet and other rocky worlds, in search of signs of extraterrestrial life.
The center is managed by the International Moon Base Alliance (IMBA), a collaborative association of several countries for the development of the first international lunar base and the maintenance of a sustainable human presence on alien planets. The project is part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (Hi-SEAS), responsible for organizing missions for astronauts and scholars.
“We have to prepare for everything in as much detail as possible, because in space many things can go wrong – even the smallest problems can affect the mission and cost someone’s life,” said Michaela Musilova, director of Hi-SEAS, to the Live Science website.
Under the Mauna Loa volcano, a test crew operates on uneven terrain, in a habitat dominated by caves. During the training period – determined in weeks or months – teams composed of up to six members must endure physical restrictions, using the bulky clothing necessary for protection in hostile situations.
During the missions, the tasks are designed to carry out geological studies and found organisms, with sample collection and preventive measures to avoid possible contamination. Although the roles are previously assigned to different positions, such as commander, operations officer, crew engineer and scientific communicator, they can change if necessary.
“We usually have several crew members who can do similar tasks, and if someone is injured or tired, there is always someone who can replace him,” explained Musilova. In addition, the availability of food, water and energy is also limited and closely monitored. The objective is to highlight the difficulties of conducting science in extreme environments.