On Friday, NASA kicked off its yearlong HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) experiment to prepare for a manned mission to Mars. As part of the study, a team of NASA recruits has begun living inside a 1000 sq. foot dome (36 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall), situated by the north side of the Mauna Lao volcano in Hawaii.
Third HI-SEAS Mission launches to prepare astronauts for space
The HI-SEAS project is designed to stimulate life on a space station on the Red planet. This is not the first time NASA has conducted this kind of study; in fact, back in October, a team of six spent eight months residing inside the same dome. This will be the third sponsored “mission,” as well as the longest isolation experiment to date.
The crew, this time around, consists of a French astrobiologist, a German physicist and four Americans, according to New Vision. The doors of the dome were shut at 3:00 pm Hawaii time, marking the official start to the mission.
WHAT TO EXPECT FOR THE COMING YEAR
In order to fund these simulations, NASA is spending roughly $1.2 million. According to principal investigator, Kim Binstead, the space agency has also received another $1 million for three more missions in the coming years.
These simulations are vital as a means of preparation, as failed space missions could cost the space agency a fortune. The extended length of the experiment is also necessary since astronauts selected to go to Mars will most likely have to endure a trip that is longer than six months, at the very least. Currently, NASA predicts a human mission would take anywhere between one and three years.
While enclosed in the dome, participants will have their own bedrooms, but need to share a small communal space, comprised of a kitchen, dining area, lab and workspace. The day-to-day life will also be very modest, and outside communication will be limited, although email is accessible.
The biggest problem the “astronauts” are expected to face relates to interpersonal conflict, as participants will be living in close proximity to each other over an extended period of time. In any case, the psychological results of this simulation are important in order to fully prepare for the journey, which NASA hopes to make by 2030.