Research participants sought for 120-day Mars analog habitat study

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kim Binsted, (808) 398-1300
Associate Professor, Information and Computer Sciences
Posted: Jan 20, 2012

Researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and Cornell University are seeking applicants for a NASA-funded Mars analog habitat study, Hawaiʻi Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS.  The study will investigate the impact of food preparation, food monotony, nasal congestion and smelling acuity on food and nutrient intake in isolated, confined microsocieties similar to astronaut crews on long term planetary exploration missions. The study will also track the use of habitat resources related to cooking and eating, to provide data for future designs of planetary habitats.  


Frequently astronauts complain about the food in space being bland, and subjective reports from American and Soviet astronauts indicate some attenuation of taste acuity.  The magnitude and variability of these changes are unclear, and the causes are so far unknown, although some theories have been advanced. 


The Cornell/Hawaiʻi study seeks to compare smelling acuity, nasal congestion, and food liking between two groups of subjects, one group in the microgravity analog condition of head-down bed rest, and the other in a relatively isolated Mars analog habitat.  The bed rest study is already underway.


Eight research participants are sought for the analog portion of the study: six to form the habitat crew, one “ground-based” research support specialist to provide support for the experiments from outside the habitat, and one more individual to serve as a backup for the other seven. Crewmembers in the analog portion of the study will spend four months living and working in a Mars analog habitat, wearing “spacesuits” whenever they need to venture outside.  They will consume a diet including both freeze-dried and dehydrated foods similar to present-day astronaut foods, plus foods that they prepare themselves from shelf-stable supplies – an alternative approach to feeding crews of long term planetary outposts.


Members of the habitat crew, like the astronaut mission specialists they will represent, are expected to bring a significant research project or other scholarly work of their own to do while at the habitat – for instance biological or geological field research, engineering design and technology evaluation, scholarly writing, or artistic endeavors compatible with the limitations of small living quarters in an isolated location with limited internet bandwidth.


The eight research participants will attend a five-day training workshop on the Cornell University campus, currently planned for early summer 2012, to train in research procedures and use of the research equipment, learn how to plan menus and prepare appealing meals from shelf-stable ingredients, and work together to plan their activities for the habitat experiences.


The group will come together in the fall of 2012 for a two-week-long analog habitat experience to test research procedures and gain experience living in an analog environment. The final 4-month analog experience is planned for early 2013. Subjects will be compensated for their participation and for associated travel and housing costs.


Applicants must be between 21 and 65 years of age and must possess normal taste and smell acuity.  They must be tobacco-free, able to pass a Class 2 flight physical examination, and able to understand, speak and write fluently in English.  Candidates selected for further evaluation and screening will be contacted by e-mail to schedule a flight physical, phone interviews and taste/smell acuity screenings.  There will be no charge to applicants for any screening procedures, and no risks in these procedures over and above those of daily life. 


The deadline for applications is February 29, 2012. To apply, visit:  

For more information, visit: