Category Archives: Uncategorized

Life in an earth-bound space pod

Official crew photos for HERA Campaign 4 Mission 5. Photo Date: May 4, 2018. Location: Building 220 – HERA module. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

From May 5 to June 18, 2018, I lived inside an earth-bound NASA capsule known as HERA (Human Exploration Research Analog), which serves as a mission analog capsule for the Human Research Program. It was a bizarre, fascinating, fun, and educational 45 days. I’ve shared some posts about the lead-up to HERA as well as the egress ceremony.  Now I’d like to share about the in-between stuff – the food, the living, the science experiments. I’m sworn to secrecy on certain topics, but I think these pictures and blog give a good representation of LIFE IN A POD. As you look through the pictures, remember that all of these things happened in a tiny habitat, about the size of an RV (~600 square feet). We crammed a lot of activity into a small space.

If you are interested in learning more about HERA, please feel free to contact me or visit reading

UMass Geologists in Greenland

I’d be hard pressed to find a better way to decompress from my NASA-HERA mission than a field expedition to the Arctic. I went from 6 weeks in a 600 square foot pod to 2 weeks in the vast expanses of Greenland’s fjords and tundra. And it was wonderful. I’ll share some photos and experiences here.

A panoramic view of Sillisit and Tunulliarfik Fjord

From June 29 to July 11, 2018, I traveled with a research group from University of Massachusetts to South Greenland in a scientific campaign to calibrate paleoclimate proxies. The overarching goal of the project, which is led by UMass professors Isla Castañeda and Ray Bradley, is to test the hypothesis that climate change may have forced the exodus of Norse settlers from Greenland around the year 1450 AD. Sediment cores have already been collected, and our efforts this field season were to collect soil, sediment, and plant samples in order to improve our understanding of leaf wax and GDGT systematics in these Arctic systems. Continue reading

HERA Debrief

On June 18, 45 days after the launch of HERA XVII, our crew of 4 “returned to earth”. Our mission is complete, safely and successfully, and I’m happy to be home.

Re-entry goes like this: We spend the morning cleaning and organizing, doing inventory, making some last journal entries, snacking, and making ourselves presentable to the world. Basically, trying to stay busy to distract from the anticipation of our emergence. During midday, we shoot past the moon, firing our thrusters to adjust trajectory and make our final alignment with earth. About an hour before our expected water-landing, the 4 crewmembers gather in the Level 1 module to watch video footage of the re-entry. We are excited. I feel a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect when the door opens. The parachutes deploy, we hear wind, we wait. Shortly after splashdown, the fanfare begins, and the door opens to the tune of Stars and Stripes Forever. To see that door open is a strange feeling, as if I forgot it was even possible that we could leave our cozy habitat. Continue reading

Limnology Field Trip

Hello blogosphere! Happy 2016!! We survived winter and the geology field season is ramping back up in the northern hemisphere. To kick off the 2016 fieldwork campaign I went with Brown University’s Limnology class, taught by Jim Russell, on a field trip to New Hampshire. The goal of the class is for students to become familiar with and proficient in all things related to lakes, and this includes field sampling. Six students, Jim, and I went to Pout Pond, near the town of Belmont, NH to take water measurements and samples. Students measured lake temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, alkalinity, and secchi depth, and took water samples to measure salts and nutrients.

Here are some pictures from the beautiful day.