Michaela Musilova is the director of the Hawaiian Space Exploration Simulation and Analogue Authority (HI-SEAS) program that carried out similar missions to the moon and Mars for scientific research at a volcanic habitat on Mauna Loa. She is currently commanding the two-week Mars Valoria 3 mission and has contributed this report to Space.com’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Commander’s Report for Mars Mission Valoria 3 at HI-SEAS
Sol 2 (August 14, 2021)
My return to Mars was a bit difficult. I mean my return to our analog Martian world that we live in at the HI-SEAS research station in Hawaii, where we do simulated missions to the moon and Mars. I have been the commander of about 30 similar missions to the Moon and Mars, so HI-SEAS is a home away from home for me. Yesterday, I sent a new crew to the Martian habitat, Valoria 3, but our journey here is almost worth it for an actual mission to Mars.
At first, we had to delay our “launch to Mars” because some supplies for our mission were unexpectedly delayed. While working on that, we discovered that our plan to fly to Mars would involve a “rogue small planet field” (aka the wildfire that just started on a highway on the Big Island of Hawaii, en route to HI-SEAS). I had to have a backup plan in place in case our journey to Mars After further research, it turns out that we can navigate through asteroids using a detour.
The entire crew held their breath during our launch to Mars. We don’t know if we will reach our destination safely. Obstacles in our path may force us to return to Earth and try again the next day. As the commander and “navigator” of the “spaceship to Mars”, I do not want to risk the safety of my crew. We were all on the edge of our seats as we passed very close to the rogue asteroids. Fortunately, we were able to find a safe route and we made it to Mars without any problems.
Now I back to my Mars homea flood of emotions is rushing over me. On the other hand, I’m excited to be back in our sweet dome and I’m excited to start the Valoria 3 mission with my new crew. On the other hand, I also feel like PTSD knowing what challenges await our time on Mars. It’s not the dust storms on Mars (rainstorms in Hawaii) or the low power mode that bothers me, although they always make our lives harder. That’s when we have to live with the bare minimum of electricity and heating, as our solar panels only provide very limited power during stormy weather.
I think my main concern is with our so-called “helmet neck” problem. It’s a literal pain in the neck that we get when we wear our watches space suit for a long time in our Marswalks. I don’t even know how many simulated spacewalks I’ve been on at this point – a few hundred or even more than 1,000? That sadly left its mark on my body. While spacewalking was a memorable experience, I lost some enthusiasm for them because of the pain I went through.
However, I have learned to put those feelings aside and focus on the present – my Valoria 3 quest. My role as commander of this mission is a huge part of training my crew to adapt well to new life on Mars, conducting all of their research experiments. to the best of our ability and most importantly for us to get along. The challenges we faced before the mission began really brought us closer together. I have no doubt we’ll bond even further in this out-of-this-world experience (no pun intended).
Valoria 3 has a very diverse and international crew, with space experts from a variety of backgrounds. Our executive officer is Elisha Jhoti, from the UK. She is currently a third-year PhD student in the Department of Earth, Planets & Space at UCLA, where she is pursuing her dream of becoming an astronaut. Elisha was a science team member on two of NASA’s Moon missions, and she serves as equality, diversity, and inclusion chair for the NextGen team of Lunar Scientists & Engineers. While in HI-SEAS, Elisha will conduct Ground penetration radar survey to detect interesting geological features and possibly map lava flows to see if the area is similar to that of Mars.
Britaney Phillips is our technician. She currently teaches high school engineering outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to teaching, she spent six years on active duty at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and three years in the Tennessee Air National Guard. Britaney is currently earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering along with other degrees, after her students challenged her to “practice what you preach” and fulfill her dreams. Britaney’s dream is to work in the Center for Load Operations and Integration at NASA and eventually to teach from space. During our mission, she will be testing a small portable hydrogen fuel cell as an educational project with her students.
Our science communications officer is Sarafina El-Badry Nance, an astrophysicist, science communicator, women’s health advocate, and author of Egyptian-American heritage. She is currently a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow at UC Berkeley, where she works supernova and computational cosmology. Sarafina is passionate about sharing interesting and strange facts about our universe with the world. Her research at HI-SEAS will focus on analyzing xenoliths (stone fragments in magma) using a hand-held laser-induced breakdown spectrometer (LIBS) to determine their elemental composition and interrelationships. their relationship to the supernovas she studies. Her ultimate goal is to determine which supernova is responsible for xenolith formation at HI-SEAS on the Mauna Loa volcano.
Dr. Nils Averesch is our bioengineering officer. Originally from Germany, Nils is a researcher at Stanford University and a member of the NASA CUBES Institute for Space Technology (Center for the Use of Bioengineering in Space). He applies biotechnology through the CUBES project to the in situ resource use (ISRU) model: the ability to make use of Mars resources to produce bio-feng shui could expand the capabilities of human explorers, by enabling the production of food, pharmaceuticals, and other materials on Mars. At HI-SEAS, Nils will deploy synthetic biology to create microbial cell factories or bioreactors that can convert greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, into bioplastics. High performance. This technology could not only contribute to the plans for ISRU on Mars, but could also create a stable and sustainable economy on Earth.
As for me, I’m Dr. Michaela Musilova. I am an astrophysicist and commander of Valoria 3, and director of HI-SEAS. My personal research projects focus on studying life in extreme environments (extremists) living in lava caves near HI-SEAS. We’ve studied these extremists with multiple research groups, including my collaborators at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and at Honeybee Robotics, to understand if the creatures are similar. could exist on Mars today or lived there in the past. On this mission, I will also be collaborating with the University of Westminster to study the rate at which humans can contaminate pristine environments, such as those around HI-SEAS. This is valuable for planetary protection studies of anthropogenic pollution of other planetary bodies. Furthermore, I will be doing a number of educational projects and reaching out to schools around the world.
Commander Musilova signs the end of Valoria 3 crew training. Our next big milestone is taking our first Marswalk and starting to collect valuable data for our research projects. .
https://www.space.com/hi-seas-valoria-3-mars-analog-mission-commander-report-1 A ‘rogue asteroid field’ nearly delayed a Mars mission similar to Valoria 3 – Commander’s Report: sol 2