Berkeley alumna back from simulated Mars mission

Among the six scientists who emerged this week from a yearlong simulation of Mars was UC Berkeley alumna Sheyna Gifford, who left family and friends behind in August 2015 to live in a 1,000-square-foot dome on the north side of Mauna Loa.

Gifford, a physician, science writer and public educator who received her bachelor’s degree from Berkeley in 2003, was the health science officer and crew journalist for the mission at HI-SEAS — for Hawaiian Space Exploration and Analog Simulation — Earth’s longest NASA-funded simulated Mars mission. Besides Gifford, the international team included an astrobiologist, a physicist, a pilot, an architect and a soil scientist, who had to wear space suits to leave their quarters. The group conducted experiments intended, ultimately, to make it possible for humans to travel to the real Red Planet.

Five months into her adventure on “sMars,” Gifford described in Aeon how, peering through the facility’s “two-foot round porthole,” her “view of the jagged rocks beyond is a constant reminder that our world— this world we’re sharing for one year as a test run for life on Mars— is hostile and mysterious.”

Read Gifford's first-person account of "Life on Mars" here.