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NASA Announces New Crew for Simulated Mars Mission at Johnson Space Center

NASA has selected a new crew of four volunteers to participate in a simulated mission to Mars within a habitat at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Jason Lee, Stephanie Navarro, Shareef Al Romaithi, and Piyumi Wijesekara will commence their mission on Friday, May 10, stepping into the agency’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA). During their 45-day tenure, the team will live and work like astronauts, concluding their mission on June 24. Jose Baca and Brandon Kent are designated as alternate crew members for this mission.

The HERA facility enables scientists to observe how crew members adapt to isolation, confinement, and remote conditions, crucial for NASA’s preparations for deep space missions to destinations like the Moon and Mars. The crew will conduct scientific research and operational tasks, including a simulated “walk” on Mars’s surface using virtual reality. Additionally, they will experience communication delays of up to five minutes each way with Mission Control Center as they “near” Mars.

This crew marks the second group of volunteers to participate in a simulated Mars mission in HERA this year. Following their completion, two more missions are scheduled, with the final HERA crew slated to conclude on Dec. 20.

In a significant development for HERA, Shareef Al Romaithi from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will participate in the mission through a partnership between NASA and the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).

Similar to previous HERA missions, NASA’s Human Research Program will conduct 18 human health studies during the mission, evaluating physiological, behavioral, and psychological responses of crew members. Seven of these studies are collaborations with MBRSC and the European Space Agency (ESA), aiming to develop strategies for long-duration space missions.

The primary crew members for the upcoming mission are:

Piyumi Wijesekara

Piyumi Wijesekara is a postdoctoral research scientist in the Radiation Biophysics Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Her research focuses on developing tissue models to investigate the effects of spaceflight stressors on the human respiratory system.

Jason Lee

Jason Lee is an associate professor-in-residence at the University of Connecticut’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Manufacturing Engineering. He specializes in thermal fluids, manufacturing, and sports engineering.

Stephanie Navarro

Stephanie Navarro is a space operations officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and a senior systems engineer at Northrop Grumman, specializing in satellite communication programs.

Shareef Al Romaithi

Shareef Al Romaithi is a pilot with extensive experience in the airline industry, including more than 16 years of service and over 9,000 flight hours on multiple aircraft.

This diverse crew brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the simulated Mars mission, contributing to NASA’s ongoing efforts in human space exploration.

Source – NASA

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