On 28 August, a crew of 6 volunteers (3 women and 3 men, one from France) participating in a simulated Mars mission on the slopes of Hawai’i’s Mauna Loa volcano ended one year of isolation in the context of a NASA-supported study.
Just one year ago, on 28 August 2015, the 6 “astronauts” began their stay on the Red Planet — or almost. The fourth HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) simulation involved 3 women and 3 men, including Cyprien Verseux of France. For a whole year, they lived in conditions (isolation, delayed communication time, etc.) similar to those of a future exploration of the fourth planet, not including radiation, lower atmosphere pressure and weight. On 28 August 2016, 1 year to the day after the start of the simulation, the 6 volunteers were able to leave in front of many media cameras.
HI-SEAS: new simulation in January 2017
The HI-SEAS habitat is a domed structure on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano on the largest Hawaiian island. At the instigation of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa with support from NASA, this experiment studies group dynamics to help the US Space Agency in selecting astronauts to form a closely-knit crew able to cope with the psychological tension induced by a long journey very far away from Earth.
The mission that just ended is the fourth and longest, the previous ones lasting 4 or 8 months. The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa announced two new 8-month simulations: the first from January to September 2017 and the second in 2018 in the same time period. If you would like to participate, application forms for HI-SEAS are available online. Applicants must be 21 to 65 years of age and have a degree in Science, among other criteria. Time is short, however, since applications close on 5 September!
HI-SEAS is not the only serious Mars mission simulation: for example, other institutions like the Mars Society (and its French branch, Association Planète Mars) regularly conduct such missions. The studies completed and their data already offer a useful basis for preparing the first manned flight to the Red Planet and, eventually, the establishment of a scientific base there.