Around a year ago, six scientists entered a solar-powered dome on the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii to study how an astronaut crew would function in isolation on Mars. They stayed inside the dome for a whole year as part of a NASA-funded mission conducted by the University of Hawaii at Manoa called Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS. At the end of August, the scientists finally exited the dome.

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Soil scientist Carmel Johnston, engineer and physicist Christiane Heinicke, neuroscientist and journalist Sheyna Gifford, doctorate in architecture candidate Tristan Bassingthwaighte, pilot and engineer Andrzej Stewart, and biologist Cyprien Verseux came from around the world to participate in HI-SEAS. The University of Hawaii at Manoa has already conducted two other HI-SEAS missions, and the recently finished third mission centered around crew dynamics as the team members lived far away from friends and family with solely the other members for company. They were able to send emails, but had a twenty-minute delay as there would be on Mars.

Related: United Arab Emirates to Launch Unmanned Mission to Mars by 2021

“Body movement trackers,” cameras, and electronic surveys allowed University of Hawaii at Manoa researchers to study social, emotional, and cognitive factors as the six scientists lived in the dome for a year. The scientists only emerged outside in simulated Mars spacesuits to conduct research.

Bassingthwaighte said in a University of Hawaii at Manoa video, “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. It’s sort of the human factors element of space travel, colonization, whatever it is you’re actually looking at.” Bassingthwaighte also utilized the experience to study “extreme architecture.”

There will be two more NASA-funded HI-SEAS missions in 2017 and 2018, each eight months long.


Via the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Images via Hawaii Space Exploration Analog & Simulation Facebook