Researchers Will Live in Volcanic Dome to Simulate Conditions in Martian Outpost

Wednesday, 01 October 2014 - 11:23AM
Mars
Wednesday, 01 October 2014 - 11:23AM
Researchers Will Live in Volcanic Dome to Simulate Conditions in Martian Outpost

NASA may plan to send humans to Mars by 2030, but six researchers from Purdue University will embark on a simulated mission to Mars as early as next week.

 

The mission, called Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), calls for six crew members to live in a huge dome on the slope of a volcano that simulates Martian conditions for eight months. The habitat is at an elevation of 8,000 feet in an abandoned quarry, on a piece of land with little vegetation and no archaeological sites or cultural practices. In order to simulate Martian life, the "astronaut-like crew members" will wear spacesuits during all of their ventures outside of the dome, and communications will be delayed for 20 minutes.

 

The mission will focus on the effects of long-term space missions on cognitive states and interpersonal interactions that have an impact on team performance. The crew members will be heavily surveilled, with literally every move tracked by cameras and body movement sensors.

 

"It's analogous to Mars but translates well to any situation that requires teamwork and a reliance on technology," said crew member Jocelyn Dunn.

 

The dome itself is two stories, with six bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, a workshop, bathrooms, a lab, a gym, and common spaces.

 

"The HI-SEAS site presents a remarkably high-fidelity environment for this type of long-duration space study," said principal investigator Kim Binsted. "Looking out the single porthole window, all you can see are lava fields and Maunakea in the distance. Once the door is closed, and the faux airlock sealed, the silence and physical separation contribute to the 'long way from home' experience of our crew members."

 

And indeed, the bedrooms look like the kind of living quarters one would see in a sci-fi movie that takes place on a spaceship:

 

[Credit: Purdue University]

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