A study that lasted a whole year to see how astronauts might deal with the difficulties of living in confined conditions with each other to simulate a round trip to Mars, has concluded in Hawaii. The study saw six scientists living together inside a specially built habitat for the full 12 months, with limited contact with friends and family and could only go outside when wearing space suits.
As well as the physical isolation of the habitat, researchers tried to emulate the conditions of a space flight as much as possible, even restricting all communications to a 20 minute delay between the crew and the outside world.
Problems did emerge throughout the year, which will no doubt provide valuable data on dealing with mishaps. At one point a plumbing malfunction left the participants washing with buckets for two weeks – not something that would be possible in space, admittedly – and they occasionally had to ration certain resources to make them last the length of the simulated journey.
— HI-SEAS (@HI_SEAS) August 28, 2016
This study was conducted as part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program and is the longest it has ever run. However it falls short of a Russian study conducted previously, which saw a similar scenario play out over a much longer 520 days.
“We were hoping for some sun,” one of the participants was quoted as saying when they emerged from the habitat on a rather overcast day. However they were in good spirits, and said they were most looking forward to going swimming in the sea, as well as eating fresh foods and a more varied diet than they had available to them in the dome.
If all of this sounds like a walk in the park, you may like to know that the HI-SEAS project is currently looking for new participants for its next two studies. Set to take place in 2017 and 2018, participants will spend eight months at a time in another specially built habitation model.
KitGuru Says: I don’t think I’d have what it takes for something like this. I’d go crazy hanging out in such a confined space with the same people. I’d need some privacy.