A Mission Returns from “Mars”

Posted on September 10, 2016 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Have you ever wondered what life would be like on Mars?

It turns out, you don’t have to head all the way to the red planet to find out! In fact, a group of astronauts just got back from Mars, well not Mars, but the closest you can get to it here on Earth. On this Saturday Around the World, we head to Hawaii to check it out!

Image: An illustration of what a Mars Exploration Simulation could look like
Source: NASA // PAT RAWLINGS, SAIC

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) is using lavanauts to simulate what long duration space missions to Mars would be like.

On a lava field on Mauna Loa volcano, the University of Hawaii’s HI-SEAS program has built a 1500 square foot geodesic habitat or “hab” where they run simulated Mars missions. So far, they have run four missions, with their most recent mission wrapping up a few weeks ago.

This is a fascinating program that has lead to many insights into how we can make Mars exploration, and long-term space exploration, a possibility in the near future!

The most recent mission lasted a year, here they are at the start of it all heading into the hab!

Coming back to earth…

And a year later? Here is the crew re-entering earth after their year of isolation.

There is something wonderful about watching this historic moment unfold, and a definite feeling of hope for the future of space travel!

Life in the hab…

So, what is like to live in such a small space? There are a lot of considerations when it comes to living with six people in 1500 square feet. Timed showers and shared spaces are just some of the challenges of cramped coexistence.

The third HI-SEAS crew gives us a look at what life in the hab is like!

Lessons from Mars…

While the research from the mission is still in the process of being worked through, the crew has a few initial lessons to share with the outside world.

So, after a year of isolation, what insights did the lavanauts glean from their most recent year on “Mars”?

Insights beyond Mars…

What can we learn from these experiments?

As anybody who has sat around an uncomfortable holiday dinner table, or worked in an unpleasant work environment can attest, team is everything.

Understanding our strengths and weaknesses, having proper communication, and working with differing personalities can make or break a team. The same issues that will plague the first Mars astronauts are something we probably deal with on a daily basis.

And perhaps this is what makes Mars exploration or long-term space exploration so human. No matter the fascinating technologies we come up with, we still have to understand the fundamental things that make us, us, and learn to reckon with them.

There is an incredible amount of exploration to be here on our own planet and beyond, and I’m excited to see what discoveries the future holds!

If you want to see a great TED Talk about why investing in this kind of science is so vital, check out our article on curiosity-driven science

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Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”-Victor Borge

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