A University of Wyoming master’s degree student is an astronaut candidate with NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA). HERA is a unique, three-story habitat designed to serve as an analog for isolation, confinement and remote conditions in space exploration scenarios, according to the NASA website.
“My interest in this came as an extension of my longtime fascination with all things space science. I got an early start on ‘Star Trek’ and other science fiction, and the idea of humans going to the stars has always been one that resonated and inspired me,” says Matthew Lehmitz, a UW graduate student in botany from Laramie. “As a result of this, I am engaged with a number of space science groups, and these have a tendency to note when NASA is doing interesting things.”
During June, Lehmitz traveled to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to go through a two-day testing segment, which he passed. Some of the basic requirements include basic physical health with a height equal to or less than 74 inches; some level of postgraduate education; a demonstration of interest and skills beyond one’s discipline; and a healthy psychological profile. Lehmitz originally sent his application to NASA for the HERA 15 and 16 missions.
“The qualifications are essentially that you have a background and skills similar to those that would be found in an astronaut candidate, or test subject,” says Lehmitz, who received his undergraduate degree in math and science from UW. “Since the idea is to use the research to improve the success of future space missions that will involve astronauts, the ideal is to run their tests on people as similar as possible to those who will eventually go on these long-term space missions.”
The two days of testing Lehmitz experienced were to determine whether he qualified for the Series 4, or full…