NASA has hand picked six of its recruits and shut them inside a dome in Hawaii for one year as a part of their efforts to simulate life on the Red Planet. Beginning August 28, the group consisting of a French astrobiologist, a German physicist and four Americans (a pilot, an architect, a doctor/journalist and a soil scientist) will have no access to fresh air food or privacy.
The self-contained dome is powered by solar energy. The inside of it is six meters tall and 11 meters in diameter. Each of the participants will have a small sleeping cot and a desk inside their rooms and will live off foods like canned tuna and powdered cheese.
They will, during the period of their isolation, have limited access to internet and will be required to wear a spacesuit for venturing outside. With new developments being reported every day, NASA’s plans of sending first manned mission to Mars within the next one to three years have begun to sound within the realm of reality.
Scientist and journalist Sheyna Gifford who is also a part of the experiment described her fellow members as “six people who want to change the world by making it possible for people to leave it at will” in a post on her blog.
She also posted a photo of her first meal on Mars. “First dinner in simulated space: the cheese & turkey quesadilla & all the veggies were all dehydrated 30 min ago.”
The team is expected to get a better understanding of the social and psychological effects of traveling to space for a prolonged period of time at a stretch. Besides facing practical problems like getting accustomed to zero gravity conditions and living in a sealed box, there comes the inevitable like interpersonal conflicts within the team members when they are housed in such a small place.
“It is going to happen over these long-duration missions, even with the very best people,” said Kim Binstead, a professor at the University of Hawaii.