Florida Tech Students, Alumna Conduct 14-Day Analog Astronaut Mars Mission Simulation
By Mary-Lou Watkinson, Florida Tech News Bureau // August 27, 2023
Nichols: we simulated being astronauts living in a Martian base
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Two Florida Tech students and a recent alumna took on Mars or at least a simulation of it. The three women conducted a 14-day analog astronaut mission in May at the University of North Dakota’s Inflatable Lunar/Martian Analog Habitat.
The mission came together through the efforts of Florida Tech’s Astrobiological Research and Education Society and was a first for the university.
On the mission, named the ARES I/ILMAH XV mission, astrobiology, and mathematical sciences student Ruth Nichols served as the commander; applied mathematics and astrobiology student Pragya Jha served as the neuroscience specialist; and Nivedha Karigiri Madhusudhan ’22 M.S. served as the engineering specialist.
“During this mission, we simulated being astronauts living in a Martian base,” Nichols said.
“We did research, performed extravehicular activities, and had limited contact with the outside world. Our research included studying how our physiology compared to that of astronauts on the International Space Station, our cognitive functioning throughout each day and the duration of the mission, some greenhouse experiments, and the effects of isolation on humans.”
Crew members needed to earn Federal Aviation Administration third-class medical certificates, design and make their mission patches and flags, and order flight suits.
“Analog astronaut missions serve as a major research platform for extraterrestrial space applications,” Karigiri Madhusudhan said.
“It gives a chance for students in different fields to know and see how outer space missions are constantly evolving in engineering and technology. Analog missions not only give you a platform for your research but also give you an idea of seeing yourself play the role of an astronaut in terms of being a part of the crew, having an ideal personality and mindset for it, solving problems quickly and being a valuable crew member.”
ARES and Florida Tech plan to continue offering an annual analog astronaut mission at ILMAH. Applications are expected to be available in early fall, and the mission will be conducted in May.
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