Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 3181

Ka`u News Briefs, June 19, 2013

Mauna Loa dome where six "gastronauts" are spending four months in a simulation of living conditions on Mars.
Photo by Sian Proctor of HI-SEAS
KA`U AND MAUNA LOA have been a favorite testing grounds to prepare astronauts for going to the Moon and now to Mars. This summer scientists are staying in a dome at the 8,000 foot elevation in a Mauna Loa quarry. Their mission is the Hawai`i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. Called HI-Seas, the experiment, funded by NASA, focuses on diet of astronauts to be sent to Mars around the year 2030. The team also confronts the loneliness factor – and tests out the use or robo pets. They also test out clothing for such discomforts as wearing the same underwear for a long period of time.
      About 700 people applied for the six berths in the Mauna Loa dome. Those selected, whom each receive $5,000 to spend the four months on Mauna Loa, are: crew commander and space researcher Angelo Vermuelan; journalist Kate Greene, geologist Sian Proctor, biologist Oleg Abramov, robotics engineer Simon Engler, and materials specialist Yajaira Sierre-Sastre.
      As part of the routine, the “gastronauts” (the nickname relates to the dietary study), wear mock spacesuits when they leave their dome for the thin air of the high slope of Mauna Loa.
      In recent field notes, Kate Green posted that “Most of our time on this simulated Mars mission is spent inside a geodesic dome. We conduct research, make and document meals for our food study, do chores, and fill out psychological and behavioral surveys. It’s no surprise, then, that adventure is hard to come by."
Dome on Mauna Loa at the 8,000 feet elevation. Photo by Sian Proctor of HI-SEA
      She writes about doning green spacesuit simulators to take a hike. “For two and a half hours, we clambered over the shifty and crumbling lava rocks just east of our habitat. We walked to the edges of pits and peered over steep drop-offs. And we investigated a nearby lava tube cave, hollowed out years ago by an immense column of molten lava.
      “A walkabout such as this is called an EVA, or extra-vehicular activity. Wednesday’s EVA had a particular objective: to explore the caves and cavities near our habitat. Technically called lava tubes and skylights, these structures interest our crew geologist, Oleg Abramov. Back on Earth, Oleg is a research space scientist with the USGS astrogeology branch in Flagstaff, AZ. Here on simulated Mars, he plans and leads geological EVAs.
     “On this EVA, our longest and most ambitious to date, Oleg’s intent was to collect samples. He wanted to get better acquainted with the geology of the region, including the composition of lavas and white coatings we’ve seen on many rocks in the area. In addition, he wanted to ground-truth satellite images for a number of skylights he spotted on Google Earth/Simulated Mars. His hope was that some of these holes in the ground would provide access to lava tube caves below.
     “Thanks to satellite imagery, we now know that both Mars and the moon also have lava tubes and skylights. These caves and holes likely formed the same way they do on Earth.
      “As a channel of molten lava flows, its top layer, exposed to air, cools and forms a crust. Below, the hotter lava continues to course until it empties out, leaving behind a tube-like cave. Skylights form when parts of the lava tube ceiling collapse. Sometimes these ceilings crumble and completely block access to the cave. Other times, they fall away clean, leaving pits with dangerous, potentially unstable overhangs. But once in a while, the rocks fall in such a way to give unfettered access to a lava-carved tunnel.
      “Caves and skylights on Mars and the moon have recently attracted the attention of But on our EVA this week, we weren’t looking for a new place to live. We just wanted to explore and collect some geological samples. The first pit we approached was an enormous gouge in the ground. Inside, a cave mouth gaped roughly 20 meters high. Unfortunately, the edges of the skylight were simply too dangerous to descend in our bulky spacesuit simulators and without rappelling gear.
      “The next skylight was smaller, about five meters across, but its perimeter seemed unstable. We couldn’t see a lava tube entrance and could only get close enough to get the sense that the drop would be a doozy. We affectionately called this one the Pit of Death.
Angelo Vermeulen, crew commander, with robotic pet. Photo by Sian Proctor of HI-SEA
      "After a few more inaccessible skylights, we came upon a fairly shallow one that sported a lava tube opening with surprisingly easy access. Oleg, Yajaira Sierra-Sastre (our science officer), and I made our way with caution. Last September, archaeologists discovered what appeared to be an ancient Hawaiian burial site in a lava tube in an area adjacent to our habitat. Human remains were found, along with a hearth and kukui nut shells. Sensitive to the possibility of disturbing such a site, we stayed near the entrance and looked for indicators of prior human activity. There were none, so Oleg collected samples of white coating on the rocks while Yajaira and I took pictures and video to document the structure. 
      `On the way back to our habitat, we came upon a few more skylights and another death pit. We didn’t dawdle or get too close. Our return journey was slow and mostly consisted of walking on solidified pāhoehoe lava flows. These are the kind that can take on a variety of looks: like heavy fabric that’s bunched and frozen in place, like thick petrified ropes or like piles of shattered dinner plates.
      "We also made a difficult crossing of an aʻā lava flow, the type that’s sharp, jagged and brittle. And the final challenge between us and our dome was a steep up-and-over on a cinder cone ridge made of small, gravel-like stones. Two steps forward, one step back. After what seemed an eternity on uneven, ankle-breaking terrain, we finally made it home. We arrived safe, sound, and grateful for the chance to explore," Green wrote. Ka`u residents can follow the team at http://i-seas.org/?p=1694.

UNFAIR TO WOMEN, is what U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono calls an immigration bill before the U.S. She spoke on the Senate floor yesterday, stating that the U.S. government should take into account the educational and career inequities in other countries before adopting a merit based point system that would rank potential immigrants.
Sen. Mazie Hirono goes to bat for women, speaking on the Senate
 floor yesterday, regarding the new immigration bill.
  Hirono, who has long lobbied for family-based immigration policies, said the bill stresses “economic considerations. Nothing wrong with that, but we should be fair to women while we're doing it."
      She says the bill also reduces opportunities for family members of those already in the U.S. to immigrate using green cards.
      According to the Congressional Budget Office analysis released Tuesday a total of about 8 million of the 11 million people residing in the U.S illegally would become legal residents.
      "We all want a stronger economy, but we should not sacrifice the hard-won victories of the women's equality movement to get it," Hirono said. "Ensuring that women have an equal opportunity to come here isn't an abstract policy cause to me." She said she is working with other women in the Senate for an amendment that would make the bill more favorable to women.

VOTING ‘NO’ ON HELE-ON BUS RATE HIKES and ‘NO’ on raising vehicle registration and weight fees, Ka`u County Council member Brenda Ford chimed in with about a dozen testifiers at the County Council meeting yesterday. Ford recommended that rather than charge children who are going to school on the bus, the county talk to the state Department of Education and ask for help for transporting students.
      According to a story this morning in West Hawai`i Today, Tiffany Kia, acting Mass Transit Agency director, said that spreading the cost of the Hele-On Bus system across the number of riders comes out to $5.87 a passenger. Passengers currently pay $1 per ride with seniors, the disabled and students riding free. The new fee would be $2 for regular riders and $1 for seniors, students and disabled. The money would be used to improve the bus system with equipment and possibly additional routes.     
Students, seniors, and the elderly will be charged for the Hele On
 bus, if the council approves the proposal for rate hikes.
Photo by Julia Neal
         Ford also suggested that the county Department of Transportation reorganize to become more efficient before hiking annual fees for local drivers to register their vehicles.
      The additional revenue from vehicle weight taxes and licensing fees would go to improving county roads, according to the administration’s proposal. The weight tax would rise to 2.5 cents per pound for trucks and commercial, non-passenger vehicles and to 1.25 cents per pound for noncommercial and passenger carrying vehicles, like buses.
      Both measures passed, with seven aye votes, a no vote from Ford and a missing vote from Zendo Kern who missed the council meeting. There is one more vote before the hikes are approved by the council. See more at www.westhawaiitoday.com

HIKING THE PAY OF THE 31 COUNTY COUNCIL STAFF members received some procedural recommendations from Ka`u council member Brenda Ford at yesterday’s council meeting. According to a report in this morning’s Hawai`i Tribune Herald, Ford said, “I want to be fair to everyone if we are going to do this.” The raise would allow the appointed staff members to earn an amount similar to union counterparts, writes Tribune-Herald staff writer Tom Callis.
      Dennis Onishi, who represents Hilo on the council, suggested looking at raising the lowest paid staff member salaries first. The hikes would cost the county about $56,000, the story said. See more at www.hawaiitribune-herald.com

IN JAPAN, MAYOR BILLY KENOI is on family vacation with his children and wife to visit her grandmother, who is celebrating her 90th birthday in Kagoshima. Managing Director Wally Lau services as acting mayor until Kenoi returns to work on Monday, June 24.
Tom Peek's Writer's Retreat sells out in Volcano. Photo by Julia Neal

TOM PEEK’S 15TH ANNUAL WRITER’S RETREAT is sold out for the session that starts Thursday and goes through Sunday at Kilauea Military Camp. The workshop is for all levels. No experience is necessary. For next year and similar events coming up sooner, interested persons can sign up for a writers email list by contacting britten@volanoartcenter.org or calling 967-8222. Peek recently won a Benjamin Franklin Award for his book Daughters of Fire

HULA ARTS AT KILAUEA will be held Friday, 6 p.m. at the hula platform near Volcano Art Center Gallery in Hawai`I Volcanoes National Park. The sunset hula features Halau Kahula O Nawahine Noho Pu`ukapu. Park entrance fees apply. See www.volcanohula.com


Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 3181

Latest Images

Trending Articles

Latest Images