Scientists Return To Earth After Spending A Year On Mars — Sort Of: Simulated Mars Mission Ends After One Year

A team of scientists have completed a year-long Mars simulation. The team consisting of six scientists lived in near-isolation in a dome located on a Mauna Lao mountain in Hawaii. The NASA-funded project was the second longest Mars mission simulation after a Russian mission (2007 — 2011) that lasted 520 days.

For the past year, the group lived in the dome and wore spacesuits when they had to leave it. Funded by NASA and operated by the University of Hawaii, the mission’s crew consisted of a German physicist, a French astrobiologist, an American pilot, an American architect, an American doctor/journalist and an American soil scientist. The mission was designed to test the crew’s performance in isolation. Since a real mission to Mars would take over six months, the findings of this experiment will help future astronauts who will be headed to Mars and will have to spend a long period in isolation in a small, claustrophobia-inducing space.

After a year in isolation, the scientists have returned to civilization. The principal investigator for the mission, Kim Binsted, said that the crew members were looking forward to jumping into the ocean and eating foods that were not available during their year in the dome. The crew members shared their own account of the experience and how it would be important for the future of space travel. Tristan Bassingthwaighte, the crew’s architect, gave the following remark in a statement.

“The UH research going on up here is just super vital when it comes to picking crews, figuring out how people are going to actually work on different kinds of missions, and sort of the human factors element of space travel, colonization, whatever it is you are actually looking at.”

Dome Mars Mission
The crew members spend a year in this dome. [Image via hi-seas.org]

Cyprien Verseux, the French astrobiologist, said that he believed this experiment showed that a future mission to Mars would succeed.

“I can give you my personal impression which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic. I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome.”

Christiane Heinicke, the German physicist, shared her remark as well.

“Showing that it works, you can actually get water from the ground that is seemingly dry. It would work on Mars and the implication is that you would be able to get water on Mars from this little greenhouse construct.”

Mars Mission Crew
The crew members of the mission having dinner inside the Dome. [Image via hi-seas.org]

Another crew member Sheyna Gifford had shared her opinion of the mission and what it would mean to the future of space travel in a blog post published after leaving the dome.

“Given what it takes to keep people alive in the void – to keep them healthy on Mars for just a year – I can basically promise that by going to space we’ll learn what it takes to keep people healthy in places with heat, light, and gravity. We’ve already started. We’ve been at it for decades. I’ve been at it for 12 months straight, been on call for almost 365.25 days.”

The mission commander, Carmel Johnston, however, shared her concern over the lack of privacy during the year spent in the dome.

“It is kind of like having roommates that just are always there and you can never escape them so I’m sure some people can imagine what that is like and if you can’t then just imagine never being able to get away from anybody.”

Interested in participating in a similar mission yourself? Well, HI-SEA is recruiting crew members for two new missions, each eight months long and set to start on January, 2017, and January, 2018.

[Image via hi-seas.org]