A Year-Long “Mission To Mars” Isolation Experiment Just Ended, And It Doesn’t Sound Too Fun

One year ago today, six scientists from around the world began a space mission in a geodesic dome on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano as part of the University of Hawaii’s, Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS program. The scientists spent every second of the last year either inside the 1,200-square-foot, solar powered structure or inside an extremely cumbersome spacesuit as they gathered information about what it might be like on Mars. (Which, by the way, conveniently looks quite a bit like the Mauna Loa volcano.)

According to BuzzFeed, the six scientists include Carmel Johnston, Christiane Heinicke, Sheyna E. Gifford, Andrzej Steward, Cyprien Verseux and Tristan Bassingthwaighte. These six individuals were responsible for learning about challenges that actual astronauts might face on Mars — related to resource management, growing food, and communication. NPR reported that the occupations of the six scientists include a NASA physician, a hydrologist from Montana, an MIT-trained engineer and pilot, a French astrobiologist and an architecture student from Tongji University in Shanghai. So…super smart people.

To simulate real conditions on Mars, the six scientists experienced 20-minute delays in communication when emailing. They also experienced serious boredom according to Heinicke who told NPR, “Bring something to work on. Something meaningful to work on. One of your biggest enemies is boredom.” You know, they do say only boring people get bored (or geniuses spending a year in a geodesic dome).

Heinicke also seemed a little salty about her fellow scientists, saying, “The other big enemies, of course, are the rest of the crew.” Damn, don’t get us wrong, a year in a tiny space with only five other people is a lot to take on, but calling them enemies? We suppose there are worse things she could have called them.

For us, there are a lot of questions about this whole ordeal, some of which have already been answered, others not so much. For example, if you’re wondering about specifics inside the dome, an official description states the structure, “is an open concept design that includes common areas such as kitchen, dining, bathroom with shower, lab, exercise, and work spaces. A second floor loft spans an area of 424 square feet and includes six separate bedrooms and a half bath. In addition, a 160 square foot workshop converted from a 20-foot-long steel shipping container is attached to the habitat.” Oh, open concept… how contemporary. We still, however, have questions about hookups between scientists and also, do they know about The Night Of?

While we wait for those answers, we’d like to encourage anyone who is interested in applying to join the next HI-SEAS Mars simulation to peruse this application. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

(Via NPR)