Beginning in late March, six people remained locked in a remote habitat for four months. The goal? To understand what it's like to live on Mars.
On July 28, the six crew members of the Hawai‘i Space Exploration and Analog Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission were released from the mock-up habitat -- a 1,000-square-foot dome that relies on solar power located on the Hawaiian Mauna Loa volcano, according to The Space Reporter. Here, the landscape is similar to a region on Mars called Tharsis.
The mission's Chief Technologist Ross Lockwood noted that the time spent in the simulation was simply a slice of what a real mission to Mars would entail, but it was still a trying experience.
"You don’t really think about the tactical feedback you get from biting into crisp lettuce and a juicy hamburger, but that’s the one thing that’s lacking here," he said via Instagram. “We’ve basically been subsisting on mush. Flavorful mush, but mush nonetheless. That’s actually one of my favorite parts of Instagram during the mission: All those pictures of food are helping me get through.”
For U.S. Air Force Major Casey Stedman, the mission commander for HI-SEAS, life on the site was difficult in other ways. “I haven’t seen a tree, smelled the rain, heard a bird, or felt wind on my skin in four months,” he said via Instagram.
During the simulation, researchers from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa kept an eye on the crew using surveillance cameras, electronic surveys, crew member diaries and other sources to track group cohesion and various cognitive, social and emotional factors.
The next step in the HI-SEAS program is to conduct a 240-day mission in October, and then a 365-day mission.
-- Jessica Mulholland