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UMass Amherst geoscientist on NASA mission to enhance astronaut experience

Will Daniels, a postdoctoral researcher at UMass Amherst, is standing in front of NASA's three-story "Human Exploration Research Analog," a closed environment at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, to learn how to help astronauts move from near-Earth orbit to space exploration. Credit: Will Daniels
Earth scientist Will Daniels, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Environmental Systems Research Center, will this month embark on the journey of his life as part of an experiment for NASA 45 days away from Earth without ever leaving the ground.

Daniels is one of only four researchers selected by applicants from across the country to participate in the 1

7th NASA Human Exploration Exploration Mission (HERA) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. As the agency describes, HERA is a three-story, closed-space environment designed to serve as an analogue of isolation, containment and remote conditions in exploration scenarios. It is one of several ground-based analogues that the space agency "is looking for ways to help astronauts move from near-Earth orbit to space exploration."

Daniels says, "I would like to become an astronaut. Some who participate in a research-analog mission such as HERA represent an important springboard to the astronaut. In any case, I am very happy to be exploring human adaptations during the astronaut "I'm excited, and a bit nervous," he adds.

"I'm nervous because I've been able to get along with the other crewmembers in a confined space, and I'm wondering what it's like I think ground control will keep us pretty busy, but I bring books and board games in case there's no time, we will not get any email or any ordinary contact with the outside world but I can call my mom in Minnesota for 15 minutes every other week. "

HERA XVII crewmembers are expected to fly their" spacecraft "several hours a day, wearing virtual reality goggles to simulate real-world effects like motion sickness, says Daniels, saying they will only use freeze-dried food, the same menu and eat the same diet as astronauts on the International Space Station and have 30 "hygiene minutes" per day for washing in the sink, a shower and bathroom privileges. "I have to be ready to shit in a bag to measure my gut microbiome," says Seriously, "the primary goal is to optimize the quality of life and workflow of future astronauts and to continually explore the best way to organize a spaceship."

Another of the challenges for the four habitat dwellers – in addition to Daniels, a female Air Force pilot, a female NASA intern and a mä a university professor – will limit sleep to five hours a night, five nights a week, to assess potential performance and group dynamics. The protocol allows a recovery period of two weekends, in which they can sleep eight hours, but no nap and little caffeine.

The crew is visually monitored by their flight, including facial scans to determine their feelings and frustrations. and "once a week we have to stretch our arms out of the wall and a nurse we can not see will pull our blood for testing," says Daniels.

The mission will begin in Houston this month with two weeks training outside the HERA Habitat, followed by 45 days of a simulated mission to an asteroid to collect rock samples – three weeks before and three weeks back – starting on May 5th. "If I reach the asteroid safely, they'll push some stones through a door and we'll pick them up for the return flight," notes Daniels. One final week of the meeting ends the mission

He will be released on June 25 and hopes to return to "normal life" immediately and study climate change in remote locations such as Alaska, Russia and Greenland with the Department of Earth Sciences Julie Brigham Grette and Associate Professor Isla Castaneda. Daniels, who came to UMass Amherst last September after completing his doctorate. In Earth Sciences and Climate Change at Brown University, he says, "I am very grateful that Isla and Julie are supporting me on this unique opportunity, and I could not do it without their support."

Daniels heard for the first time from his girlfriend Tess Caswell, whom he calls the "HERA XI Crew Member," "a passionate space scientist who absolutely loved her experience." He applied one year ago and six months later he took the medical and psychological exam, which was "stung and nudged with difficult questions for two days," he says. "I just found out in March that I was selected, and in a way, I can not believe I'll do it, but overall, I'm looking forward to it."

Further information:
Goodbye HERA, hello sleep: NASA's HERA XIII crew returns to sleep

Provided by:
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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