Antarctica Base Crew to Simulate Space Travel Experiences

British Antarctic Survey's Halley Research Station
The British Antarctic Survey's Halley Research Station is seen with stars and the Milky Way in the background. The station's crew is participating in a study to understand how humans can adapt to long missions in deep space. (Image credit: Sam Burrell, British Antarctic Survey)

A crew of scientists living in Antarctica will simulate spaceflight during the long, cold winter to better understand how humans adapt to long space voyages.

The Antarctica experiment at Halley Research Station is designed to help researchers understand how well crewmembers remember certain skills during a nine-month mission that somewhat resembles a flight to space. For example, some of the crew will be trained on how to dock a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station before starting the mission.

The mission includes four months of complete darkness and isolation at sea level. People are also being studied at Concordia Research Station, another Antarctic facility that is at a higher altitude of 3,200 meters (10,500 feet). [9 Wildest Mock Space Missions]

Steve Croft, winter generator mechanic at the Halley Research Station in Antarctica, practices docking simulations as part of a human spaceflight study on Earth. (Image credit: Alexander Finch)

"Living at Halley is in many ways similar to living in space where crew are cut off from the world without sunlight and in very small communities," said Nathalie Pattyn, a doctor at Halley, in a statement. "The huge scientific bonus of comparing data from Halley and Concordia is to be able to look at the influence of hypoxia, the lack of oxygen, on top of the isolation and confinement issues."

The Halley station has a crew of between 13 and 52 scientists during the year and can have temperatures as low as minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 50 degrees Celsius) in the winter.

Other planned experiments include watching the effects of austral summer (where the sun doesn't set). Light will be one of the big themes of this crew's research studies. The effect of light on the human body is examined in terms of body clocks, physical activity and eye adaptation.

Green auroras dance over the Halley Research Station in Antarctica, where scientists will practice space docking simulations as part of a human spaceflight study. (Image credit: Sam Burrell, British Antarctic Survey)

Crewmembers will also record video diaries that will later be analyzed by computers to watch for any changes in words or pitch. The aim of that experiment is to better monitor how well the crewmembers are doing psychologically.

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: