It would seem that NASA has stepped up its plans to send a manned crew to the Red Planet. While engineers are trying to sort out transportation-related problems, the North American Space Agency has started a new type of project, one focused on the psychological impact of living on Mars for an extended period.
Recently, a team of six astronauts has been dispatched to the Hi-SEAS facility to partake in a psychological study. The proving grounds for astronauts belongs to the University of Hawaii, which has partnered up with NASA for the duration of this project.
For a period of eight months, a team six astronauts (two women and four men) will take shelter inside a biodome constructed on the Mauna Loa volcano. The environment around the biodome is very similar to Mars’s rugged terrain, meaning that the astronauts won’t have too much trouble believing that they’re actually on the Red Planet.
During the study, the crew will be engaged in various scientific activities very similar to those they are going to perform once they set foot on the Red Planet. However, the purpose of the new project funded by NASA is to study the psychological impact of living in a biodome, on another planet, for an extended amount of time.
NASA declared that the biodome is no bigger that a home with two bedrooms, but it has everything it needs to accommodate the scientists and their equipment. Also, for the simulation to feel more real, the astronauts had to build their biodome from scratch using NASA-approved materials.
Their shelter is made from vinyl, but it’s strong enough to withstand the harsh condition of Mars. The simulation is so real that NASA actually added a 20-minute delay in communication (that’s how long it would take to send a signal from Mars to Earth).
This means that the astronauts who have embarked on this mission will have to wait 20 minutes for a reply to their radio messages or their e-mails. Of course, they will have plenty of food, water, and oxygen inside the biodome, but they will also have to produce their own resources.
For the experiment to be successful, NASA has asked the astronauts to refrain from contacting other people for the duration of the mission. The team of six astronauts will spend eight months locked inside the biodome.
Image source: Wikipedia