Under the unearthly glow of a vast white dome, a group of scientists are conducting experiments on unfamiliar terrain. For 12 months, they have lived in isolation, learning how to survive in the challenging and hostile environment of Mars. But these would-be astronauts are not actually on the Red Planet.
A creative mission
As summer was just winding down, a team of six researchers embarked on one of NASA’s most creative missions yet. But instead of boarding a rocket and jetting off into space, they traveled to the slopes of a volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. There, they entered a detailed simulation of Mars — a bizarre setting that would be their home for the next year.
Sending mankind to Mars
For decades, NASA has been perfecting the technology that it hopes will ultimately send mankind to Mars. But what about the human impact of such a lengthy and extreme mission? At the HI-SEAS habitat on Mauna Loa, scientists have been emulating the conditions of a trip to the Red Planet — with surprising results.
Forced into close quarters
So how did these six men and women react when forced into the close quarters of a simulated mission for 12 months? And what lessons can be learned that might make space travel easier in the years to come? As it turns out, the biggest obstacles were the things that nobody expected.
Ever since scientists first used telescopes to observe the surface of Mars, many have dreamed of exploring this strange, red planet. And when the Viking 1 lander successfully touched down in June 1976, that dream must have seemed even closer than before. But almost 50 years later, we are still waiting for it to become a reality.