A retired Air Force B-52 pilot and researcher is about to start an eight-month simulation of a mission to Mars in an isolated habitat on the desolate slope of a Hawaiian volcano. Edward Fix, a 20-year Air Force veteran was selected by NASA and the University of Hawaii to take part in the latest experiment to examine how humans can deal with the prolonged isolation and Spartan living conditions that would be experienced in an exploration of Mars. Fix flew B-52s, then after earning a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology became a technical research leader and supervisor at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Human Effectiveness Directorate. Fix and eight others will be isolated in a 36-foot-diameter habitat at 8,000 feet on Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii. This will be the third of the lengthening tests of human receptivity to what could be a year-plus mission to Mars. The program, called the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission, said this experiment will investigate “the impact of food preparation, food monotony, nasal congestion, and smelling acuity on food and nutrient intake in isolated, confined microsocieties.” (USAF release)
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.