The six person Mars food study crew has been named

MAUNA LOA, Hawaii: A six-member crew has been selected for the Mars food mission, dubbed HI-SEAS, for “Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation”. The study for NASA hopes to determine the best way to keep astronauts well nourished during multiple-year missions to Mars or the moon.

The study will take place here on the Big Island, at 8,500-foot elevation on the Mauna Loa side of the saddle area, which most resembles a martian environment.

After receiving more than 700 applications, a team of researchers from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Cornell University have selected six individuals to make up the crew of the simulated Mars mission, which will test new forms of food and food preparation strategies for deep-space travel.

Here are the names of the six-member prime crew, chosen from a group of nine that participated in an intense first phase of testing and training held in mid-June.

  • Oleg Abramov, a research space scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology branch in Flagstaff, Ariz.;
  • Simon Engler, a scientific programmer specializing in robotics currently on an internship at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn.;
  • Kate Greene, a science and technology journalist, amateur filmmaker and avid open-water swimmer who is a native of Kansas and currently resides in San Francisco, Calif.;
  • Sian Proctor, a geology professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Ariz.;
  • Yajaira Sierra-Sastre, a materials scientist and educator who resides in Ithaca, NY, and is currently working with disadvantaged school districts and communities in Puerto Rico; and
  • Angelo Vermeulen, a biologist, space researcher and visual artist from Belgium.

The three remaining individuals will make up the reserve crew.

  • Yvonne Cagle, a NASA astronaut and family physician who is currently on faculty and serves as the NASA liaison for exploration and space development with Singularity University in California;
  • Crystal Spring Haney, a small business owner, personal trainer and at-home mother of two from Kapolei, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i; and
  • Chris Lowe, a space systems engineer from Southeast England who currently resides in Glasgow, Scotland.

Cornell University provided these video interviews with the crew.

The crew will participate in a two-week training session in late 2012 prior to the four-month simulation mission in early 2013. Once they head to Hawai‘i, the team of volunteers will be required to live and work like astronauts, including suiting up in space gear whenever they venture out of a specially built simulated Martian base.

According to Cornell scientists Jean Hunter, one of the biggest food challenges astronauts face is menu fatigue.

The research team will compare the palatability of available instant foods and food prepared by the crew, and determine whether food preferences change over time. They will also compare the time, power and water required for meal preparation and cleanup for instant and crew-cooked foods, and compile recipes and cooking tips.