Expedition to prepare for travels to red planet

University of Hawai‘i at Manoa scientist Kim Binsted, and assistant professor in the department of information and computer sciences, is one of seven crew members from around the world that will participate in an unprecedented four-month Mars simulation mission beginning next month.

Binsted will leave next Wednesday for the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island in the high Canadian Arctic, a location only 900 miles from the North Pole chosen for its striking similarity to the red planet.

Sponsored by The Mars Society, a private international grassroots organization dedicated to furthering the case for human exploration of Mars, the mission will stand as the longest and most isolated human Mars simulation mission ever conducted.

Its objective is to prepare for eventual human missions to Mars by conducting scientific exploration under nearly all of the constraints that astronauts on an actual Mars mission will one day face.

Binsted will join crew members from the United States and Canada, in investigating field exploration techniques that would be relevant to the scientific exploration of Mars. She serves as the chief scientist on the crew and her role includes coordinating the collaboration between the crew an the “Earth-based” Science Advisory Group.

“We’re excited about both doing the science and being the science,” Binsted said. “By doing the field science under mission constraints, we’ll face, and hopefully overcome, many of the same challenges that Mars explorers will face one day.”

Some of the scientific projects the crew will conduct include geological surveys, searching for evidence of past life and environmental and meteorological observations. The simulation also will include investigating the role and optimal combination of human exploration, telepresence, robotic exploration and the use of remote-sensing tools.

The crew will be supported by a Remote Science Team composed of NASA, and scientists that will assist the same way the group would if it were a true Mars mission.

Binsted participated in a two-week practice mission in February at The Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah. While there, the crew inspected the space suits they will be required to wear every time they venture outside. They also worked with the Remote Science Team simulating many of the constraints they will face in the Arctic.

During the four-month mission, Binsted will be posting messages on her blog, www.marsho.blogspot.com with the latest news and details. For more information, go to www.fmars2007.org.

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