Latest long-term Mars habitat crew a global mix

Now in its sixth year, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) is set to begin its next mission with the most international crew in the history of the research project. The four astronaut-like Mission VI crewmembers hail from Australia, Korea, Scotland and Slovakia.

They are:

  • Sukjin Han: an assistant professor in economics at University of Texas at Austin, specializing in econometrics. His research focuses mainly on developing statistical methods to evaluate causal effects of treatments or interventions, such as medical interventions, social programs or economic policies. He is particularly interested in settings where treatments are endogenously determined by agents in the system, due to the optimization and interaction of the agents.
  • Michaela Musilova: An astrobiologist with a research focus on life in extreme environments (extremophiles). Her astrobiology and space research experience includes working on astrobiology and planetary protection research projects at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; simulating lunar and planetary surfaces through NASA’s and the UK Space Agency’s MoonLite project; searching for exoplanets at the University of London Observatory; and being an analogue astronaut at the Mars Desert Research Station, USA in 2014 and 2017.
  • Calum Hervieu: An astrophysicist and systems engineer, who grew up in rural Scotland. Prior to joining HI-SEAS Mission VI, Hervieu was part of the Spaceship EAC initiative at European Space Agency’s European Astronaut Centre, Germany, where he was working to develop goals and best practices for future human and robotic missions to the lunar surface.
  • Lisa Stojanovski:  professional science communicator who is passionate about making humanity a spacefaring civilization. In 2017, Stojanovski toured remote and regional Australia with the Shell Questacon Science Circus to earn a master of science communication outreach. Stojanovski creates content for the live web show TMRO, while managing the Australian chapter of the Space Generation Advisory Council.

At approximately 5 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time on Thursday, February 15, they will enter a geodesic dome habitat atop Mauna Loa on the island of Hawaii as part of an eight-month research study of human behavior and performance. The NASA-funded project aims to help determine the individual and team requirements for long-duration space exploration missions, including travel to Mars.

The crew started nine days of briefings and training on Wednesday, February 7, joined by scientific researchers and mission support to prepare for HI-SEAS Mission VI.

HI-SEAS Principal Investigator and UH Manoa Professor, Kim Binsted is excited about the international diversity of Mission VI and the role HI-SEAS plays in understanding human behavior and performance in space.

“This is the first time we’ve selected a crew that includes members from four different countries of origin. As HI-SEAS is an international collaboration between researchers, mission support and crew, it is great to see this diversity reflected in the Mission VI crew,” said Binsted.”For humans to successfully undertake a long-duration spaceflight to Mars, it will require a global collaboration, and so it seems appropriate that our Mission VI begins with this spirit of internationalism.”

During the eight-month mission the crew will perform exploration tasks such as geological fieldwork and life systems management. The mission is conducted under isolated and confined conditions designed to be similar to those of a planetary surface exploration mission. For example, all communications are delayed by 20 minutes in each direction to simulate the time it takes a message to travel between Earth and Mars. Daily routines include food preparation from only shelf-stable ingredients, exercise, research and field work aligned with NASA’s planetary exploration expectations.

Under the watchful eye of the research team and supported by experienced mission control, the crew will participate in multiple primary and opportunistic research studies. The primary research is conducted by scientists from across the United States who are at the forefront of their fields.

The primary behavioral research includes a shared social behavioral task for team building, continuous monitoring of face-to-face interactions with sociometric badges, a virtual reality team-based collaborative exercise to predict individual and team behavioral health and performance and multiple stress and cognitive countermeasure and monitoring studies.

HI-SEAS Mission VI continues a series of successful 8-month and 12-month missions that place HI-SEAS in the company of a small group of analogs capable of operating very long duration missions in isolated and confined environments such as Mars500, Concordia and the International Space Station.

HI-SEAS Mission VI follows the successful eight-month Mission V that was completed in September 2017.

State Department enlists Hawaii Open Data for Tunisia project

The U.S. Department of State is funding a project to improve the use of open data in Tunisia, and has tapped local non-profit Hawaii Open Data to lead the initiative.

The funding comes from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs within the State Department, through its Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative.

Burt Lum, executive director of Hawaii Open Data, was engaged by MEPI as a volunteer expert under the auspices of the Financial Services Volunteer Corporation to launch the Tunisia open data initiative. FSVC located Lum through the Open Knowledge Foundation, where he serves as the ambassador for the U.S.

The World Bank is also involved in the Tunisia project in a coordinating role.

Lum’s role is part of the FSVC’s initiative to help the Tunisian government to make more of its public data open and accessible, thereby driving economic development, as well as improving government transparency. Lum participated in open data workshops the first two days of a week-long workshop in Tunisia last week, and facilitated discussions among various ministries, civic society organizations and state-owned enterprises.

Lum also met with the Office Du Commerce De La Tunisie (OCT), which is responsible for foreign imports, including sugar, tea, coffee, rice and spices. His meeting with OCT was followed by a consultation with the Office of Vocation and Workforce Development. His consultation concluded on Friday at a meeting with the Institut National de la Météorologie to discuss weather data.

“After the revolution in 2011 that created the Tunisian democracy, it is impressive how the national government has embraced open government and open data as ways to build trust in government,” Lum said in a press release. “I am quite honored to have been invited to participate in this important initiative.”

Lum advised the government organizations on the selection of open data formats, data integrity, and governance to help them prepare for publication of the data on the government’s open data portal.

About Hawaii Open Data

Hawaii Open Data, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is dedicated to advancing the adoption of open data/knowledge standards and the development of solutions leveraging open data in Hawaii. Hawaii Open Data focuses on helping organizations leverage data as an asset through education and improving data accessibility and integrity. Hawaii Open Data pursues its initiatives to support public-private collaboration, government transparency, and civic engagement. The organization’s core focus areas include research, best practices, tech policy community building and civic engagement.

King Tides, Supermoon returning for New Year’s Day

Dr. Gail Grabowsky

Dr. Gail Grabowsky

“King Tide” is not technically a scientific term, but it should be. It describes a specific tidal happening that people care a lot about – especially now.

And shortly after 2018 begins, we’ll experience an exceptionally rare and noticeable King Tide. It peaks at 3:54 a.m. Jan. 1 in Honolulu when our New Year’s Eve champagne buzz has worn off.

Regular tides are caused by the moon’s gravitational pull and to a lesser extent by the sun. King Tides are caused when two celestial events take place simultaneously: a spring tide and perigee.

Spring tides – the highest tides of the month – occur when the moon, sun and earth line up, causing the gravitational pull of the moon and sun to complement each other. These tides generally occur twice a month year round, meaning the scientific term “spring tide” is a bad one!

Perigee, you might remember from eighth-grade science class, is when the moon is nearest to earth and exerts the greatest gravitational pull on our oceans. Perigee adds about two inches to high tides.

The New Year’s King Tide will not only involve a spring tide and perigee “supermoon.” We’ll also experience perihelion on Jan. 2 when the earth’s elliptical orbit is nearest the sun. This improbable celestial mix may make the first King Tide of 2018 even more remarkable.

All this would just be cool science and coincidence but for one glaring thing: climate change. King Tides coupled with sea level rise due to human-caused climate change spell trouble for coastal peoples.

Predictions on the amount of sea level rise we’ll encounter by 2100 vary, but a number of scientific conclusions are unequivocal:

  • Sea levels are rising and will continue doing so into 2100;
  • The rate of rise may not be linear (the same from year to year), meaning it may increase; and
  • Our behaviors can affect the amount of sea level rise over the next decades and centuries.

King Tides are as old as the earth and moon but have become threatening and damaging due to climate change. So now the term King Tide, which was likely invented by the Aussies or Kiwis, has inundated our ocean-awareness vocabulary and is used the world over.

King Tides are well known to my Chaminade University students from the low-lying Pacific islands of Majuro, Kiribati, Palau and Chuuk. Their homemade videos show how recent King Tides – combined with sea level rise – covered coastal crops, infiltrated fresh-water tables, flooded homes and even immersed burial sites of ancestors.

The impact of sea level rise coupled with King Tides in the Pacific is captured in a powerful slam poem, ” Dear Matafele Peinem,” written and performed by Marshallese native Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner at the opening ceremony of the United Nations’ Climate Summit 2014.

Hawaii awakened to the term “King Tide” on April 26 and 27, May 25 and June 23 of this year when photographs and eyewitness accounts documented higher-than-usual tides.

The weekly fireworks show at Hilton Hawaiian Village had to be cancelled more than once. The ocean reached the wall at Ala Moana Beach Park. Sand covered the walkway along Kuhio Beach in Waikiki. These and many other noticeable extremes took us to the consciousness-raising tipping point.

We cannot control what happens when something celestially rare and wondrous occurs this New Year due to a King Tide caused by a supermoon, spring tide and perihelion. We can, however, control climate change and its effects. Doing so means we could one day return to a time when King Tides are much less noticeable and not damaging.

So when making New Year’s resolutions and gazing at the stunning supermoon, let’s all resolve to be Pacific climate warriors determined to stop the causes of climate change in Hawaii and globally.

Let’s adopt better practices that leave us simply appreciating, not fearing, amazing celestial events such as the one awaiting us at the dawn of 2018.

Associate Professor Gail Grabowsky directs the Environmental Studies program at Chaminade University of Honolulu.

Hawaii firm harnesses WeChat to target Chinese visitors

Hawaii-based iTravLocal has set its sights on the growing Chinese travel market, hoping to connect local vendors with visitors who are accustomed to buying products and services via WeChat, the most popular mobile app and commerce platform in China.

The company says there were 120 million outbound travelers from The People’s Republic of China (PRC) last year, and predicts there will be 200 million travelers by 2020. Hawaii is a key location for the Chinese traveler, and iTRAVLocal Limited (ITL) says it has found a niche to capture this lucrative market.

Founded earlier this year, iTravLocal describes itself as a destinations and activities solution provider that works in collaboration with WeChat, “the Chinese social media platform and super app.”

WeChat boasts more than 963 users and its users spend more than 30 percent of their smartphone time within the platform. WeChat users communicate with friends and colleagues, share files, shop online, pay bills, and more. The platform has over 963 million users with over 50% of these users spending 90 minutes a day. WeChat is owned by Tencent, one of the largest companies in the world in terms of market capitalization.

iTravLocal hopes to find Hawaii companies looking to draw Chinese visitors and help them implement WeChatPay and AliPay, also a digital wallet provider, or develop mini-programs within WeChat that can target and market to the Chinese traveler more effectively.

“People conduct their personal and professional lives differently in China — mobile apps are everything.” explains iTravLocal co-founder and COO Alex Wong. “The majority pays using a digital wallet in China, from street vendors and local wet markets to convenience stores and medical offices.”

Wong says approximately 94% of this market is dominated by mobile payments.

“The fastest growing segment in tourism is the Chinese,” Wong says. “I’m encouraging Hawaii vendors to implement WeChatPay and potentially develop WeChat mini programs… the key benefit would be increasing business to mainland Chinese customers, who spend more than any other nationality when traveling.”

The profit potential is huge, Wong adds, citing a study by consulting firm iResearch that show China mobile payments hit $5.5 trillion — roughly 50 times the size of America’s $112 billion market.

“There are an estimated 200,000+ Chinese visiting Hawaii every year [and] research shows they spend far more than Japanese visitors,” he says. “In 2016, Chinese from mainland China spent $260 billion on overseas travel — an increase of $11 billion from 2015.”

Wong will be the moderator for the Social Mobile Trends session of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority  Global Summit China on September 20, 2017. iTravLocal and Tencent/WeChat is also hosting an invitation-only gala event aboard the Star of Honolulu cruise ship the next day.


New massage style launched in Honolulu

iMages by Ryan Sakamoto (

Honolulu massage therapist Charisma Koffman has introduced a new type of bodywork called “Sarga Bodywork,” which puts a new spin on an ancient technique. It’s a barefoot massage, but it differs from other techniques in that it incorporates a silk cloth to let the therapist provide deeper pressure and a stronger connection to the client.

The technique is performed by wrapping the cloth around the massage table and the therapist’s neck, shoulders, and arms. The tension from that bind gives the therapist stability, which allows more specific targeting of the muscles. Furthermore, pulling up on the cloth creates tension that translates to deeper pressure. The cloth replaces what normally would be overhead bars for support.

The word sarga can mean a type of tapestry in Spanish, but also has Sanskrit roots as well, Koffman explains. In that language, it refers to a creation.

“This is deeply meaningful to me as a therapist because I use ‘Sarga Bodywork’ to create a healing energy for my client,” Koffman said. “There is normally an exchange of energy between therapist and client, and here, it’s amplified because the sarga literally wraps us together.”

Koffman is one of only a dozen certified “Sarga Bodywork” providers in the world. The technique is so new, its founders only began offering courses this year. Koffman offers “Sarga Bodywork” to clients in Kaimuki at BAM Body and Mind Studio.

Koffman has a passion for working with people in a healing capacity. She earned her massage therapy license in 2012 from the Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai, where she underwent an intense, year-long training to learn traditional Thai massage and Thai foot reflexology. She loved the experience so much, she continued her education and became certified as an instructor. Now she is excited to show clients the healing powers of “Sarga Bodywork.”

“The body is a vessel,” Koffman continues. “I am honored to work with people to help them find better health, both in the physical form as well as the spiritual one.”

Learn more about Charisma Koffman at, on Facebook at B.A.M-Body And Mind, and on Instagram at @bambodyandmind.


State of Hawaii licensed massage therapists Jivatma Massageur and Daniel Tsukayama developed Sarga Bodywork as a practical matter. As they explain on their website, “While we love the bold, steady contact of massaging with feet, this type of work often requires that the therapist holds on to overhead support such as a rope or bar for balance. Over time, the combination of engaging the arms overhead while looking down with the head can make for a real pain in the neck!” They now offer training courses around the Islands.

Photo courtesy iMages by Ryan Sakamoto.