As NASA scientists and engineers begin to develop the equipment and protocols necessary to ensure that crewmembers remain safe, healthy, and productive on long-duration space missions, the harsh environment of Antarctica provides an appropriate setting in which to conduct preliminary research. NASA scientists have determined that Antarctica’s climate, terrain, temperature, and degree of isolation provide an environment that most closely parallels the conditions of isolation and stress that are likely to be faced on long-duration human missions in space.
The United States’ Antarctic Program (USAP) maintains research facilities at several sites in Antarctica, including the McMurdo, Palmer, and South Pole Stations. Most Human Research Program-related activity is conducted at McMurdo Station, a coastal outpost located on the volcanic hills at the southern tip of Ross Island. Over the course of a typical year, more than 800 scientists and support staff travel to McMurdo to conduct experiments.
HRP studies undertaken at McMurdo Station focus on variables such as isolation, telemedicine, and the human response to harsh environments. Extreme temperatures, harsh winds, and atypical seasons of daylight and darkness are only some of the parallels between Antarctica and the space environment.
Learn more about the research facility at http://usap.gov/index.cfm.