Houston Matters

Simulated Space Missions Designed to Push Pseudo-Astronauts to Their Limits

NASA has quietly been taking crews of four on 713-day missions to explore an asteroid. Ok…well, not exactly. Actually, the asteroid is more like a simulated one located firmly on the ground inside a hangar at Johnson Space Center. Instead of real astronauts, the crews are made up of volunteers. And, instead of 700-day missions, […]

The Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) experiment at NASA's Johnson Space Center sends volunteers on simulated missions to an asteroid to test the effects of long missions on humans. (Photo: Bill Stafford and Robert Markowitz, Courtesy: NASA)NASA has quietly been taking crews of four on 713-day missions to explore an asteroid. Ok…well, not exactly.

Actually, the asteroid is more like a simulated one located firmly on the ground inside a hangar at Johnson Space Center. Instead of real astronauts, the crews are made up of volunteers. And, instead of 700-day missions, they’re more like 30-day stints spent inside a three-story spacecraft.

It’s all for an experiment called Human Exploration Research Analog – or HERA. It’s designed to take test subjects – acting as faux astronauts — to their breaking point so researchers can gather data about stress and leadership for the real-life astronauts who one day hope to embark on real deep-space missions.

But how can a space module inside a hangar truly simulate space? And are those involved just playing make-believe? To find out, Paige Phelps spoke to Lisa Spence, HERA’s project manager.

(Above: The Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) experiment at NASA’s Johnson Space Center sends volunteers on simulated missions to an asteroid to test the effects of long missions on humans. Photo: Bill Stafford and Robert Markowitz, Courtesy: NASA)

MORE: HERA Mission 10 Crew to “Splashdown” on Wednesday (NASA, May 31, 2016)

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