Cornell scientist to take part in NASA study

A Puerto Rico native will be part of a crew of six scientists to simulate a mission to Mars and test new types of food and food preparation to allow for deep-space travel.

Yajaira Sierra-Sastre, a materials scientist at Cornell University, was selected from among the 700 applicants for a mission, called HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) that will take place on a barren lava field in Hawaii, according to a press release from the university. The mission is part of a study by NASA to find the best way to keep astronauts well-nourished during trips to Mars or the moon.

The six-member crew from Cornell and the University of Hawaii at Mãnoa initially took part in testing and training at Cornell’s test kitchens. They also have undergone sensory analysis, team-building exercises and academic preparation for the isolation trip planned for the beginning of 2013.

Sierra-Sastre is from Arroyo, Puerto Rico, and has taught chemistry at her former high school. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and went on to do research at Stanford University, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the NASA Research Center for Nanoscale Materials in Puerto Rico.

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