Launched in 2012, the Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, HI-SEAS, is a University of Hawai‘i at Manoa research program funded by NASA, designed to operate long-duration planetary surface missions to investigate crew composition and cohesion.

In a specially designed habitat, a crew of six (selected from a pool of “astronaut-like” candidates that meet the basic requirements of the NASA astronaut program, by having an undergraduate degree in a science or engineering discipline, three years of experience or graduate study, and so on, and monitored by an experienced Mission Support team) perform exploration tasks such as geological field work and life systems management while isolated on the Moon and Mars-like northern flank of Mauna Loa on Hawai‘i Island, 8,200 feet above sea level.

Rigorous daily routines — of food preparation, exercise, scientific research, geological field work (aligned with NASA’s planetary exploration expectations), equipment testing, and tracking resource utilization of food, power, and water — support an assortment of psychological tests that form the primary behavioral research program which is the core of HI-SEAS. Studies focus on the need to identify psychological and psychosocial factors, measures, and combinations that can be used to compose highly effective teams for self-directing long-duration exploration missions. The primary research funded by the NASA Human Factors and Behavioral Performance element is conducted by researchers from across the U.S. and Europe who are at the forefront of their fields.


The HI-SEAS habitat is a semi-portable, low-impact structure with a useable volume of approximately 13,000 cubic feet, a usable floor space of close to 1,200 square feet, and small sleeping quarters for a crew of six. The habitat dome is supplied by Pacific Domes International and is an open concept design by Blue Planet Research that includes common areas such as a kitchen, dining room, laboratory, bathroom with shower, exercise and work spaces, and a simulated airlock. A second floor loft spans an area of 424-square feet and includes six separate bedrooms and a half bath. In addition, a 160-square foot workshop converted from a 20-foot-long steel shipping container is attached to the habitat.

The habitat is powered by a 10kW solar array located south of the habitat and visible from the lab windows, with panels that charge battery banks between sunrise and sunset. A backup hydrogen fuel cell generator is programmed to kick in when the battery residual state of charge reaches 10%. Additionally, there is a propane generator that can also supply power for several days as necessary, drawing propane from a 1,000-gallon tank located far from the habitat, behind the northern ridge. Water for drinking, cooking, washing, and showering is stored in two 500-gallon potable water tanks, refilled every 4 to 5 weeks. Toilets in the habitat don’t use water to flush and waste water is fed to two 250-gallon grey water tanks.

For communications, HI-SEAS manages a 20-minute one-way communication as would be experienced when Mars is furthest from Earth. The crew has restricted access to the Internet because of the communication latency, with the habitat’s antenna linking to another at the Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO), and a third at the Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy (HPA). A web-based project management tool called Basecamp facilitates communication between Mission Support and the crew. Another web interface is used by the crew to control remote relays (for example, those connected to the heater and fuel cells) and collect sensor information. Data is distributed to investigators outside the habitat for analysis, and to Mission Support for real-time situational monitoring.

A team of approximately 40 personnel from around the world serves as HI-SEAS Mission Support, from First Tier Support comprised of experienced team members from other space analogs or actual space missions that acknowledges emails, reviews EVA plans, reads and files the crew’s daily reports, to Second Tier Support comprised of principal investigators and collaborators consulted for any non-routine issues and on-call for 24-hour shifts. Medical and Psychological Support is provided by a mission physician and a mission psychologist, with emergency physicians and EMT responders located in Hilo. A Systems Group comprised of 9 technical experts who helped design and construct the habitat are available to troubleshoot any problems that arise with the sensor, network, power, and other systems at the habitat.




Multiple research groups are funded by the NASA Behavioral Health and Performance Element to collect data on team cohesion and performance. They include:

  • Team Processes and Team Effectiveness, put forward by Michigan State University with three specific aims and associated deliverables representing an integrated approach for measuring, monitoring, and regulating teamwork processes and long-term team functioning in isolated, confined, and extreme (ICE) environments:

    • To benchmark long duration team functioning in ICE analog environments,

    • To extend engineering development of an unobtrusive monitoring technology (such as a wearable wireless sensor package),

    • And to develop teamwork interaction metrics and regulation support systems.

  • Effectiveness of a Shared Social Behavioral Task as a Team-Building Exercise in Isolated, Confined, and Extreme Environments, to help build and maintain some of the behavioral processes that underlie team and mission success using a recently developed behavioral software tool called COHESION (Capturing Objective Human Econometric Social Interactions in Organizations and Networks), which objectively measures cooperation, productivity, fairness, and other dynamic social processes in small groups.

  • Crew Communication in Debriefs,investigating how communication among crews during required debriefs changes over time and the degree to which it is indicative of team processes and how it contributes to overall team effectiveness by analyzing video recordings.

  • MENTALBLOCK, investigating the feasibility of predicting individual and team behavioral health and performance through performance in a Virtual Reality team-based collaborative game utilizing advances in data mining to derive psychosocial state assessments and correlating the results with self-reports and team performance to derive factors that predict high performing team compositions. This study directly addresses NASA’s need to study interpersonal and intrapersonal issues using empirical data from a high fidelity analog environment.

  • Autonomous Behavioral Countermeasures for Spaceflight, providing individuals in isolated and confined environments (like spaceflight) with tools to reduce conflict, relieve stress, and treat depression. These evaluations provide a unique opportunity to assess the program with people who are experiencing an environment similar to long-duration spaceflight. Behavioral health problems are common on Earth, and these programs and technologies could be useful in many Earth settings.

  • Mission Operational Autonomy: Crew and Mission Support Interaction in Autonomous Exploration of Distant Space and Planetary Surfaces, evaluating the operational interactions between crew and Mission Support transitioning from low to high crew autonomy that are relevant to distant space exploration and remote isolated environments over the duration of an 8-month HI-SEAS mission.

  • Self-Guided Stress Management and Resilience Training, which aims to evaluate the effectiveness, usefulness, acceptability, and usability of a self-guided multimedia stress management and resiliencetraining program called SMART-OP, which interactively teaches evidence-based stress management and resilience training skills that help users think more flexibly, regulate emotions, and behave optimally.

  • Asynchronous Geological Exploration Operations at the HI-SEAS Planetary Surface Analog Mission Simulation in Hawai‘i, which comprises a series of tests that enable an evaluation of how a crew is able to build an increasingly detailed understanding of the environment surrounding their habitat site in a manner similar to how future astronauts may explore another planetary body on a long surface stay mission.

Other opportunistic research at HISEAS, which are separate from but complementary to the primary research objectives include examining sleep, fatigue, and mood; stress research; remote support of an additive 3D printing manufacturing on Martian analogs; in-mission training and the introduction of new mission objectives during a mission cycle; and the evaluation of crew-centric onboard planning tools, such as specialized apps.


HI-SEAS is in the company of a very small group of analogs that are capable of operating very long-duration missions (eight months or longer) in isolated and confined environments, such as Mars500, Concordia, and the International Space Station. Beginning in 2012, the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa has received NASA funding for three campaigns with mission lengths ranging from four to 12 months:

  • Campaign 1 (Funded by NASA HRP, NNX11AE53G), with an overall objective to compare the resource costs and the nutritional and psychosocial benefits of two food systems proposed for longterm space missions: pre-packaged “instant” foods, and foods prepared by the crew from shelf-stable, bulkpackaged ingredients.

  • Campaign 2 (Funded by NASA BHP, NNX13AM78G), to collect data on team cohesion and performance by continuous monitoring of face-to-face interactions with sociometric badges, mitigation of the effects of isolation using immersive 3D virtual reality interactions with the crew’s family and friends, measure of emotional and effective states using automated analysis of multiple forms of textual communications provided by the crew members to identify relevant and effective teamwork behaviors, and multiple stress and cognitive monitoring studies.

  • Campaign 3 (Funded by NASA HFBP, NNX15AN05G), focusing on identifying psychological and psychosocial factors, measures and combinations thereof that can be used to compose highly effective crews for autonomous, long-duration and/or distance exploration missions.

Additionally, HI-SEAS has operated five missions independent of direct NASA funding:

  • Mission I from April 14 to August 13, 2013 (4 months), with crew members Angelo Vermeulen, Sian Proctor, Kate Greene, Yajaira Sierra-Sastra, OlegAbramov, and Simon Engler.

  • Mission II from March 28 to July 25, 2014 (4 months), with crew members Lucie Poulet, Ross Lockwood, Tiffany Swarmer, Casey Stedman, Ron Williams, and Anne Caraccio.

  • Mission III from October 14, 2014 to June 13, 2015 (8 months), with crew members Sophie Milam, Zak Wilson, Neil Scheibelhut, Jocelyn Dunn, Allen Mikadyrov, and Martha Lenio.

  • Mission IV from August 29, 2015 to August 29, 2016 (12 months), with crew members Cyprien Verseux, Christiane Heinicke, Carmel Johnston, Tristan Bassingthwaighte, Sheyna Gifford, and Andrzej Stewart.

  • Mission V from January 19, 2017 to September 19, 2017 (8 months), with crew members Laura Lark, James Bevington, Samuel Payler, Ansley Barnard, Joshua Ehrlich, and Brian Ramos.