The Terrestrial Analog
fieldwork conducted on the Big Island, Hawai'i

In summer 2015, I served as a participant-observer in the testing of terrain manipulation robotics, with the goal of using investigating the complex of actors and forces at play in the use of terrestrial analogs, and that thus form part of the foundation of interplanetary colonization.

Human interaction with extra-terrestrial bodies is increasing in frequency and diversity. Robotic scientific research missions on Mars are revealing their potency as predecessors of mining and human inhabitation missions, with private companies and government agencies increasing their efforts towards interplanetary colonization.

These efforts bring novel interactions between humans, technology, and the new environments of Space. In understanding these new relationships, we face challenges of distance and technological mediation. As a remedial measure in research and technology development, extra-terrestrial scientists and engineers employ terrestrial analogs, Earth sites used as stand-ins for foreign bodies.

Terrestrial analogs serve as simulated proving grounds for technology, sites for climatic, biological, and geological research, and terrain for astronaut training and human inhabitation research. One such site is the volcanic grounds of Hawai'i’s Big Island – the peaks of its two volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa and the lava desert between them.

The research was supported by a grant from the Penny White Project Fund at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.