Life on Mars: Researchers emerge from long-term isolation

19 September, 2017, 09:41 | Author: Patsy Dennis
  • NASA gravity map shows Mars has porous crust

Crew members pose for a photo 17 September, 2017, after emerging from their habitat, after eight months of living in isolation in a Mars-like habitat in Mauna Loa volcano, Big Island, Hawaii.

A crew of two women and four men took part in the study, which was created to "identify psychological and psychosocial factors" that would be important for long-duration space exploration missions, such as a mission to Mars. They were isolated since January in Hawaii to determine psychology and requirements during manned space missions.

Now the data they produced during their time will help NASA select individuals and groups with the right mix of traits to best cope with the stress, isolation and danger of a two-to-three year trip to Mars. The space agency aspires to send humans to the red planet by the 2030s. After completing their mission, they gulped mango, pineapple, and papaya.

They've mainly been eating freeze-dried food so the first thing they did after leaving the dome was enjoy a fresh fruit buffet.

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The six emerged to cheers and applause - before pouncing on the fresh fruit and veg.

"Carrots, peppers, pok choi, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, radishes, tomatoes, potato's, tons of parsley and oregano", said mission botanist Mark Watney Joshua Ehrlich. They could only send and receive information with a 20-days delay, which is the time that all communications take to reach the Earth when is sent from Mars. The crew was tasked with conducting geological surveys, mapping studies and maintaining their self-sufficient habitat as if they were actually living on Mars.

This is the fifth such mission undertaken by the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), based at the University of Hawaii.

Recent studies of the Moon by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission also yielded a precise gravity map.

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'There are certainly technical challenges to be overcome. "We are absolutely capable of it", Lark added. The suit's sensors let them gauge their emotions and proximity to others in the small, 1,200 square-foot (111-square meter) dome where they lived.

They could sense if people were avoiding one another, or if they were toe-to-toe in an argument. "So what's really important is to have a crew that, both as individuals and a group, is really resilient, is able to look at that conflict and come back from it". When they needed to led their minds wander and unwind, they used virtual reality headsets to take brief digital vacations to calming locations like a beach.

The project was run by the University of Hawaii, with Dr Kim Binsted as its principal investigator.

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