Media Release - For Immediate Release
Saint Mary's Grad Selected for Mars Mission Simulation
10 July, 2012
Saint Mary's grad Simon Engler (centre) in the test kitchen for a NASA study on nutrition during space missions.
Meatloaf again? Many of us cringe at the thought of the same boring meals over and over. But for Saint Mary’s graduate Simon Engler, the challenge of maintaining a diverse and healthy diet is all the more difficult – he will be part of a six-person team living in isolation on a barren lava field in Hawai‘i simulating a mission to Mars.
Engler, who graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Astrophysics and Mathematics will be a crew member on a mission known as HI-SEAS (Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation), part of a study for NASA to determine the best way to keep astronauts well-nourished during multiple-year missions to Mars or the moon.
One of the biggest food challenges astronauts face is menu fatigue. A voyage to the Red Planet could take from two to three years, and over this time, they not only tire of eating foods they normally enjoy, but also tend to eat less, which can lead to a variety of problems.
The HI-SEAS mission will test whether crew nutrition, food intake and food satisfaction can be improved if crews cook for themselves and will assess the additional resource cost of a crew-cooked food system.
For Engler, a University of Calgary Master of Science student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department and a scientific programmer specializing in robotics currently on an internship at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, the challenge is an exciting one. Engler is no stranger to pre-prepared rations, however, having spent 10 months on a combat tour in Afghanistan in 2009.
Along with two days of cooking lessons already completed at Cornell University’s test kitchens, the crew will participate in a two-week training session in late 2012 prior to the four-month simulation mission in early 2013.
Once they head to Hawai‘i, the team of volunteers will be required to live and work like astronauts, including suiting up in space gear whenever they venture out of a specially built simulated Martian base.
Watch a video overview of the project.