February 5, 2010 – Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Video by David Corrigan
The technologies that may be deployed in future space exploration were tested on slopes of Mauna Kea this week, 9,000 feet above sea level on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The collaborative science camp set up on the cold and dusty terrain of the mountain included NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the German Aerospace Center and the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES).
Amidst the testing area crawling with lunar rovers and busy scientists were stationary structures working to hatch out an effective process that would enable future extraterrestrial colonists to “live off the land”. The equipment processed the fine grained volcanic soil, similar in composition to the regolith that would be found on Mars or the Moon, in order to produce oxygen and water for survival. Not only would the manufactured oxygen be used to sustain the lives of colonists, it would also be used to create rocket fuel. Another mechanism focused the energy of the sun to create a lava-like soil fusion to be used, when cooled, to create a launch pad. The international group of scientists also worked to produce the energy, on site, that would power the processes.
This week’s announcement that the Obama administration plans to kill NASA’s $100 billion plan to return humans to the moon in favor of instead exploring new rocket technology research, did not halt the testing, even if it did increase tension amongst the different research organizations, who hope their agendas can survive under the new budget direction.
PISCES, meanwhile, is hoping this will not be the last visit by the international space community. The UH-Hilo based organization is hoping to create a permanent testing site on Mauna Kea in the future. PISCES has created space education programs for students of all ages, including space science classes at UH-Hilo. PISCES says it is guided by a local Cultural Advisory Committee made up of people from the Big Island.
Big Island Video News will feature more from this unique science event next week, during our Na Leo o Hawaii cable tv broadcast (Wednesday on channel 54, 6:30 pm)