Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation or HI-SEAS is a NASA-funded project, which aims to examine the effects of isolation in confined conditions of a human mission to Mars. HI-SEAS comprises of 6 international scientists, who just emerged from their one-year isolation in a Mars-like habitat atop Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano.
This is the third simulation and the longest space travel simulation ever conducted on U.S. soil. The chosen location for this simulation is the Mauna Loa volcano, which is the most similar to the barren and red surfaces of the planet Mars.
Sheyna Gifford, the chief medical and safety officer of HI-SEAS told the HuffingtonPost that the biggest challenges they encountered were a "sense of helplessness." She added that trying to find a way to help from here is very difficult. This pertains to situations such as things went wrong on Earth, whether it was a terrorist attack, death of a family member, calamities such as flooding or earthquake.
The team ventured in simulation on August 28 of last year. They stayed in a 1,000-square-foot dome on rocky terrain 8,200 feet above sea level. They are dressed in full spacesuits when they attempt to go outside. The NASA-funded mission kept them busy with daily scientific research, equipment testing, geological field work, cooking and exercises, among others.
The team could only communicate with the outside world through email. These transmissions were delayed by 20 minutes to imitate how long it would take for such a signal to travel between Earth and Mars. Their resources were limited. The food was replaced every four months and the water was refilled every two months. Whatever things they needed, they had to bring them into the dome at the outset, right down to duct tape, according to Gizmodo.
Carmel Johnston, the crew commander said that they changed everything about their lives and limited themselves to only communicating by email. She further said that if anyone didn't want to hop on that wagon, they just didn't hear from them this year. It can be pretty disheartening to feel like you are missing out on everything happening at home.
"With all the good and the bad comes lessons that you can't learn unless you are in isolation," Johnston wrote. "Every success or failure is still data and an outcome that can be used to improve the lives of astronauts and Martians."
Meanwhile, Gifford stated that she realizes that the journey to Mars will likely prove more challenging in ways you don't expect that in ways you do. She further said that the good news is "human beings are pretty much capable of anything."
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