The mock Mars experiment in a geodesic dome on the slopes of Mauna Loa, Hawai’i cane to an end on September 17 after eight months with six members emerging from their habitat.
The experiment was part of the Hawaiʻi Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission that aims to help with the selection of crews for future long-duration space missions, such as a mission to Mars. The six members felt the sun and wind on their faces and ate fresh tropical papaya, pineapple and bananas with friends and family after emerging from the habitat.
During the mission, four men and two women lived in isolation from the rest of planet Earth and could eat only shelf-stable foods and occasional lab-grown vegetables. When communicating with the outside world, they had to deal with the 20-minute delay that astronauts on Mars would experience as well. And any time they went outside, they had to put on their spacesuits.
The Mission V crew entered the HI-SEAS dome on Jan. 19. During their eight-month stay on Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, they conducted scientific experiments, performed daily exercises and maintained equipment in and around the dome. Outside the dome, the astronauts did geological fieldwork in their spacesuits just as if they were on Mars.
While HI-SEAS studies the more technical and practical aspects of living on Mars, a large part of the investigation is to see how a group of people live together in isolation with little to no privacy.
What do crew members say?
Brian Ramos, one of the researchers, said “HI-seas in general is looking at challenges that future astronaut crews will face on Mars. It’s specifically a psychological experiment, so they’re looking at things like crew cohesion, and how you build a team that works really well together.”
“Long-term space travel is absolutely possible,” Laura Lark, IT specialist for HI-SEAS V, said in a video. “There are certainly technical challenges to be overcome. There are certainly human factors to be figured out, that’s part of what HI-SEAS is for.”
“My advice to mission six is say, ‘Yes.’” Ramos said. “If you have an opportunity whether it’s filming or learning a new science skill or flying the drone, going out to a lava tube, whatever it is, say, “Yes.’