An international team has locked itself away in a dome in Hawaii for a year without fresh air, food, or privacy to simulate what humans could experience on Mars.
The dome has been set up near one of the island state's rugged volcanoes, reports AFP. The crew is made up of a French astrobiologist, a German physicist, and four Americans, who are a pilot, an architect, a soil scientist, and a doctor/journalist.
The 36-foot diameter, 20-foot high dome is located on a northern slope of the Mauna Loa volcano. The team closed itself off in the barren location at about 3 p.m. Hawaii time Friday.
Members of the team must wear a spacesuit if they want to leave the dome, reports Sky.com
According to Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), the mission is set up to help NASA plan a human mission to Mars, which would put a team on the red planet for one to three years.
The crew is being monitored with cameras, body movement trackers and other methods, and principal investigator Kim Binsted, a professor at the University of Hawaii, said the longer missions can help pinpoint risks of space travel.
"We hope that this mission will build on our current understanding of the social and psychological factors involved in long duration space exploration and give NASA solid data on how best to select and support a flight crew that will work cohesively as a team while in space," Binsted commented.
But the conditions are far from a luxury visit to Hawaii. Already, one member of the team, journalist and scientist Sheyna Gifford
, tweeted a photo of her first meal, which was a rehydrated cheese and turkey quesadilla with peas and corn.
Gifford said on her blog, LivefromMars.life
that the team is comprised of "six people who want to change the world by making it possible for people to leave it at will."
There have already been four-month and eight-month stays in the dome, HI-SEAS reports. On average, International Space Station missions last for about six months.
Binsted told AFP that conflicts arose during the eight-month mission, but the crew was able to work around them.
"I think one of the lessons is that you really can't prevent interpersonal conflicts," she said. "It is going to happen over these long-duration missions, even with the very best people. But 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."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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