Introducing the HI-SEAS IV Crewmembers – 365 Day Simulated Mars Mission

4th August 2015


Crew Commander

Hi, I’m Carmel Johnston from Whitefish, MT. I’ve had a passion for natural resources my whole life and am exploring new ways to use them here on SimMars. In high school, I participated in the Flathead River Educational Effort for Focused Learning in our Watershed (FREEFLOW) where we learned about water quality, stream health, and the influence of humans on water quality in the Flathead Valley.

I wanted to continue studying hydrology so I went to school at Montana State University for a BS in Soil and Water Science. I continued on for a MS in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences. This allowed me the opportunity to conduct two summers of field work in Alaska, studying carbon dynamics in permafrost soils. After completing my thesis, I traveled to New Zealand and Australia to learn about livestock management from people that are dealing with climate change right now.  And let’s be honest, I also did a bunch of hiking while I was there.

When I came home, I spent the summer hiking around Glacier Park and enjoying a beautiful Western Montana summer before working for the NRCS as a soil scientist. This past summer, I worked on the initial soil mapping project in Glacier which married my favorite things: science and the wilderness.

I decided to join the 4th HI-SEAS Mission so I can continue studying food production, this time within the construct of living on Mars. The research we are conducting will hopefully have implications for food production on Mars as well as Earth. How do we feed a population using the resources you have while not destroying the planet you’re on? Come on world, we need to start thinking about this now!

My favorite things include being outside (yes it’s weird that I’m spending a year in a dome), climbing mountains, skiing, fishing, running, biking, knitting, baking, and playing with my favorite human… my nephew Cash.



Chief Scientific Officer & Crew Physicist

Christiane is a German physicist and engineer. She is interested in anything that moves, be it air flowing over wheat fields or glaciers sliding down mountain valleys. Most recently she has worked on sea ice, but she has also gained experience working with polar lights, metal melts, and simulations of the Earth’s mantle.

She has received her B.Sc. in Applied Physics from the Ilmenau University of Technology in Germany, and her M.Sc. in Geophysics from Uppsala University in Sweden. After two years abroad, she returned to Ilmenau for her PhD in Engineering during which she also learned how to play the cello.

In a hope to increase her time with snow per year, she then moved to Finland to work with the Aalto University. There, she went camping almost every week before deciding to trade the green forests and plentiful lakes for the vast landscapes of dry rocks at HI-SEAS. Her family did question her sanity, but after spending two weeks at MDRS as a finalist for the Mars Society’s MA365 mission she was unchangeably intrigued by the possibility of living like a Mars explorer, and so ended up heading for a life in the dome.

During her freetime there she is planning to coax her fellow crewmembers into dancing, to learn at least one language and one instrument, and – to distract from her lousy cooking skills – bake a cake from time to time.



Health Science Officer and Habitat Journalist

Sheyna E. Gifford, MA, MSc, MD, started working for NASA in 1997. Her first project was a Mars Spacesuit design proposal for the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Since then, she has worked on a satellite project (HESSI), a cosmology research project (DEEP2), written for Astrobiology Magazine, and, most recently, gotten onboard the mission to simulated Mars. She hopes to use her degrees in Neuroscience, Medicine,Biotechnology and Journalism to do great space science and medicine, and communicate those discoveries to the world.




Chief Engineering Officer

Born in Banbury, England, to a military family, Andrzej Stewart earned a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005, and an SM in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT in 2007.  As part of his life-long dream to become an astronaut, Andrzej became an ardent light aircraft pilot.  He’s logged over 500 flight hours, earning his instrument and commercial pilot certificates, and he volunteers with Challenge Air and EAA Young Eagles, introducing kids to aviation.  Prior to joining the HI-SEAS Mission 4 crew, Andrzej worked at Lockheed Martin as an interplanetary flight controller.  He’s worked on console for the Spitzer Space Telescope, Mars Odyssey, MRO, MAVEN, Juno, and GRAIL.  Recently, he served as the Flight Engineer for the sixth mission of NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA), simulating a two-week journey to asteroid 1620 Geographos.  In his free time, Andrzej is a goalie in a recreational ice hockey league as well as an avid board-gamer.  He hasn’t played the guitar in a while, but will be brushing off his skills and (hopefully) entertaining the crew during the mission.  When not exploring sMars, Andrzej lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife Christy, who also aspires to fly in space someday. Be sure to check out Andezej’s blog ‘Surfing with the Aliens’



Crew Biologist 

Cyprien Verseux is an astrobiologist working on the search for life beyond Earth and an expert in biological life support systems for Mars exploration. Part of his research aims at making human outposts on Mars as independent as possible of Earth, by using living organisms to process Mars’s resources into products needed for human consumption. In other words, he is figuring out how to live on Mars off the land using biology and what is already there. He currently is a PhD student co-directed by Daniela Billi, at the University of Rome II (Italy) and Lynn Rothschild, at NASA Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, California). Prior to focusing on astrobiology he obtained Master’s degrees in Systems and Synthetic Biology from the Institute of Systems and Synthetic Biology (Evry, France) and in Biotechnology Engineering from Sup’Biotech Paris (Villejuif, France). On Earth (or close to Earth) and outside the lab he enjoys skydiving, road trips with a tent and a few friends, swimming in lakes and seas, mountaineering, writing, reading a wide range of books and living stimulating new experiences.



Crew Architect

Tristan Bassingthwaighte is currently a doctor of architecture candidate at UH Mānoa. He is completing his master’s degree in architecture from Tongji University in Shanghai, where he studied abroad for a year looking at human habitation in extreme environments. His doctoral work will involve designing a next generation conceptual Mars habitat, with research focusing on social, psychological, and health impacts of long duration isolation on another world.