Michael Murphy © 2024

Analogue Astronauts
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Gidon Gautel
Commander
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Alex Ribo
Deputy Commander
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Megan Hammett
Payload Commander
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Alastair Babington
Engineer
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Matilda Greenwood
Medic
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Jack Gordon
Mission Specialist

Meili I

2 months ago

Simulating Planetary Exploration

In August 2023, Space Health Research launched their first Analogue Astronaut Mission. This space analogue mission replicated elements of space travel to test ideas and new technologies under challenging conditions in Great Britain.

The mission name, Meili-1, was inspired by the Norse god who is revered as the god of exploration and travel. The god’s background was shrouded in mystery, just as the future of space travel carried many unknowns.

The purpose of the Meili-I mission was to conduct rigorous research into simulated space environments, challenge analogue astronauts under harsh physical and psychological conditions, and replicate elements of space, including remoteness, isolation, and scarcity of resources.

Throughout this mission, they shared their stories in engaging and creative ways through various art mediums to bring their discoveries to life, with the aspiration that Meili-I’s journey and outcomes would be useful to the scientific community and the public alike.

Their research program included:

Geological Surveys of Impact Regions (GSIR) Study

The GSIR study featured on their 2023 analogue mission focused on using the sedimentological characteristics of debrites within the Scarba Conglomerate as an analogue for the deposition of melt-rich impact breccias. GSIR additionally aimed to test how new technologies (i.e., smartphone applications) could support geological mapping on future geology-based analogue missions and future crewed planetary missions.

Arthur Goodwin led the GSIR study from the University of Manchester. Data collected during GSIR fit into Arthur’s PhD research of the Stac Fada Member - a terrestrial impactite in North-west Scotland.

Field geology conducted on analogue missions contributed to the development of new techniques and technologies used to conduct geological experiments. Geology was a major focus point for NASA and ESA on their respective Mars exploration programs.

Impact of Extreme Environments on Personal Identity (IEEPI) study

IEEPI was a 1-year study that aimed to understand how simulated space journeys (i.e., analogue missions) could impact and transform the identities of analogue astronauts. The IEEPI study formed part of a larger 5-10 year project that explored the identity transformation experienced by astronauts as a result of space travel.

Interpersonal relationships formed a tremendously important part of space missions. Astronauts had to live in constant close proximity to one another for long periods of time. The IEEPI study performed on the analogue mission gave researchers insight into the effect of a simulated space mission on the identity, thoughts, and feelings of analogue astronauts, living in close proximity in a remote environment, without contact with the outside world.

The IEEPI study was led by Michael Murphy in collaboration with Dr. Aaron Parkhurst. Both researchers were affiliated with the University College London (UCL) Space Health Risk Research Group, as well as the UCL Ethno-ISS project.

Heart Rate Variability in Analogue Astronauts (HRV-AA) study

The HRV-AA study sought to understand the changes in the heart rate variability (HRV) of analogue astronauts (AA) when participating in an analogue mission in a green space environment. Findings from HRV-AA served as a basis for further research into the beneficial effects of green space on people in high-stress environments, with the overall aim to develop interventions that could benefit a range of people such as astronauts, patients undergoing surgery, and endurance athletes.

Their analogue astronauts used body-worn sensor technology to monitor heart rate variability during the mission.

HRVAA was coordinated by Dr. Samantha Moore, Dr. Chris Gaffney, and Dr. Cliff Shelton. All researchers were affiliated with the Lancaster Medical School at the University of Lancaster.

Decision-Making in High-Performance Environments (DMHPE) study

DMHPE examined how the decision-making and situational judgment of analogue astronauts developed following the high-fidelity training created by an analogue mission. The DMHPE study utilized the reflective decision-making tool BIG5E, an enhanced version of the original BIG5, with the aim of potentially enhancing understanding of how to optimize the training and development of decision-making tools used in complex high-stake environments.

The DMHPE study was led by Dr. Loel Collins from the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with James Dyer - an expedition leader affiliated with the University of Lancashire.

 

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