Looking through the dome’s small porthole, the only view was of a barren field of red rocks. The astronauts ate freeze-dried food and shared cramped quarters for eight months to further space exploration, only venturing out to the alien landscape wearing spacesuits. At the end of the claustrophobic mission, they were greeted with a “Back to Earth” celebration.
They were also just pretending. The would-be astronauts weren’t in space. They were scientists confined to an isolated geodesic dome to simulate what it’s like to live on a long-haul space mission to Mars. This Saturday, the crew emerged from the isolated “Mars analog” for the first time in eight months. The mission was part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or Hi-SEAS.
The three men and three women were selected to see what happens when astronauts stop being polite and start getting real. Seriously, it was a mission designed to study how to mitigate problems in social dynamics between space travellers so that we don’t end up space-murdering each other in the planet-colonising future.
Instead of a spaceship, they lived in a two-storey dome located at an 8,000 feet (2.4km) altitude in an abandoned quarry on the side of the dormant volcano Mauna Loa, in Hawaii.
They were closely monitored with surveillance cameras and fitness trackers, and they blogged about their claustrophobic adventures, though they couldn’t have high-speed internet. “Emails and internet use are delayed by 20 minutes because of the time it would take a radio signal to travel from Earth to Mars at the speed of light,” ABC News wrote about the mission.
So far, it doesn’t appear that any bad dynamics emerged among the cloistered crew, although they’ll be meeting with the researchers studying how well they worked together over the next few months.
This seems like a pretty noble sacrifice to make so that my great-great grandchildren don’t murder each other aboard the express shuttle to Jupiter after the Great Reckoning of 2043, and I salute these people who almost certainly know what each others’ farts smell like. [AP | Washington Post]