A simulated voyage to Mars


A NASA-backed research crew who were cooped in a Mars-like habitat in a remote Hawaii volcano emerged from eight months of isolation. They were part of a study designed to better understand the psychological impacts a long-term space mission would have on astronauts.

The data they produced 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 U.S. space agency hopes to send humans to the red planet by the 2030s.

Survivor’s story

The crew was quarantined for eight months on a vast plain below the summit of the Big Island’s Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano. After finishing their stint, they feasted on pineapple, mango and papaya.

While isolated, the crew members wore space suits and travelled in teams whenever they left their small dome living structure. They ate mostly freeze-dried or canned food on their simulated voyage to Mars.

Grew fresh vegetables

During the eight months in isolation, mission biology specialist Joshua Ehrlich grew fresh vegetables.

“Carrots, peppers, pak choy. Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, radishes, tomatoes, potatoes tons of parsley and oregano, I mean it was phenomenal, just that delicious fresh taste from home really was good,” Ehrlich said.

All of their communications with the outside world were subjected to a 20—minute delay the time it takes for signals to get from Mars to Earth. The crew was tasked with conducting geological surveys, mapping studies and maintaining their self—sufficient habitat as if they were actually living on Mars.

When they became overwhelmed, they could use virtual reality devices to take them away to a tropical beach or other familiar landscapes.AP




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