6 Humans Step Into One-Year Isolation Dome

It's part of NASA's preparation to send humans to Mars
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2015 6:19 AM CDT
Six Humans Step Into One-Year Isolation Dome
The 36-foot-wide, 20-foot-tall Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation dome.   (NASA)

As NASA prepares to send a crew to Mars sometime in the 2030s, they've just shut six people inside an isolation dome in Hawaii for a year—the longest such experiment in the US, reports AFP. It's part of a larger look at travel logistics in a program at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) dome, which has already involved studies about cooking on Mars as well as four- and eight-month co-habitation missions. And yes, conflicts do arise, though principal investigator Kim Binsted isn't giving up details on past missions. "One of the lessons is that you really can't prevent interpersonal conflicts," she says. "It is going to happen over these long-duration missions, even with the very best people.... What you can do is help people be resilient so they respond well to the problems and can resolve them and continue to perform well as a team."

The six inhabitants—a French astrobiologist, German physicist, and an American pilot, architect, doctor/journalist, and soil scientist—will have their own small rooms with cots and desks; limited Internet access; trips outside only in spacesuits; and foods like canned tuna and powdered cheese. The 20-foot-tall, 36-foot-wide dome is situated on a barren slope on the Mauna Loa volcano, reports Engadget. Trips to the Red Planet will likely last far longer than one year; just getting there takes eight months when sending robots and should take one to three years when involving humans. One crew member from a previous mission said upon her return that she couldn't believe how much she "missed the flavors and textures of a juicy steak." (A Dutch nonprofit is hoping to send 24 humans on a one-way mission to Mars in less than a decade.)

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