Finally, It’s End of MARS Ordeal for 6 NASA Scientists at Hawaii Dome

It was an ordeal on Mars resembling the Hollywood film ‘MARS’ by Matt but the exit is in Hawaii for these six NASA scientists who came out of the Mars Simulation test centre in Hawaii called the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) a year after.

These six scientists emerged out of their captive Mars simulation yearlong experiment in a dome in near isolation. The dome was set up on a Mauna Loa mountain and the inmates were allowed to go outside only while wearing spacesuits. The ordeal finally came to an end on Sunday for them.

Cyprien Verseux from France was optimistic about a human mision to Mars in the future. “I can give you my personal impression which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic. I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome,” she said.

Another scientist Christiane Heinicke from Germany said since water can be found a dry climate, it is possible to go to Mars. “Showing that it works, you can actually get water from the ground that is seemingly dry. It would work on Mars and the implication is that you would be able to get water on Mars from this little greenhouse construct,” she said.

Tristan Bassingthwaighte, an architecture candidate at University of Hawaii, who served as the crew’s architect said:"The UH research going on up here is just super vital when it comes to picking crews, figuring out how people are going to actually work on different kinds of missions, and sort of the human factors element of space travel, colonization, whatever it is you are actually looking at."

Kim Binsted, the team’s principal investigator, said they want to jump into the nearby sea and look for fresh foods that weren’t available in the dome. “HI-SEAS is an example of international collaborative research hosted and run by the University of Hawai’i. So it’s really exciting to be able to welcome the crew back to earth and back to Hawai’i after a year on Mars,” she said.

NASA funded HI-SEAS project is the second-longest of its kind after a mission that lasted 520 days in Russia in the past. The team members had no privacy during the mission. The site was chosen because it shows little signs of human existence and even plants are scarce at that altitude. In other words, it’s one of the few places on Earth that can offer researchers few of the signs of their home planet without having to leave Earth.

Although social interactions were the primary study area for this mission, the teams had to do without almost all the normal elements of human life on Earth. For instance, they ate only food that was freeze-dried or that would be stable on a long-duration spaceflight. Water and electricity were extremely limited – not just for drinking, but for showering and other uses. They left the habitat once a week to conduct field studies on foot wearing suits akin to those being designed for astronauts on a Mars excursion.

The dome the team used was erected 8,000 feet above sea level and was basically a small, two-story house. The first floor, which covered about 900 square feet, housed the common areas such as lab and shower while the upper level’s 424 square feet housed the staterooms for the participants along with a half-bath. An attached workshop was made from a converted shipping container. The design was tied closely to the amount of space a crew on Mars is likely to have for a habitat.

Project leaders also chose the volcano as a site because its geology offered the crew a place to take samples and conduct field studies once a week outside the habitat. Astronauts on a journey to Mars would do the same thing during their time on the surface, just as the Apollo astronauts did on the moon. Also, the volcanic surface is akin to the Martian soil and is used in many cases to simulate Martian surfaces in other studies.

Noting that there are obvious limits to conducting deep-space simulations on Earth, scientists said there are many aspects that can be suitably studied, principally the crew interactions and how people change how they see others after a long time in one another’s presence. More than just whether or not they get along, a crew’s makeup will dictate how successfully other science is performed during a mission to deep space.

Researchers are excited about the work that was completed during the mission but will take some time before detailing their findings in academic journals and at technical conferences.

[ tags nasa, nasa mars mission, nasa mars hawaii, mars simulation hawaii, man on mars, mars mission, mars simulation, hawaii scientific study, science news, space, space news, technology ]
The participants of the HI-SEAS mission.
Credits: HI-SEAS

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