Six people are about to have one, long year.
Last Friday, a team of researchers shut themselves inside of a dome in a remote part of Hawaii and won’t be able to come out for 365 days, all in an effort to simulate what it would be like to live on Mars. The moment marked the beginning of the longest-ever isolation mission attempted by the agency, and it promises to be rife with challenges.
Besides being cramped in a small room with five other people (the dome is 36 metres in diameter and 20 feet tall), the team won’t have any of the luxuries we take for granted here on Earth. For one, they won’t have access to fresh air. Instead, they’ll have a system that resembles an airplane cabin, where the same air is repeatedly reused and recycled. In fact, the team won’t get to feel fresh air at all–even when they go outside, they must do so within the confines of a spacesuit.
The outside area, meanwhile, is also an extension of the simulation. The area they will be staying in is so remote, no animals inhabit it and hardly any vegetation grows.
For meals, delectable items like powdered cheese and canned tuna will be available (yum!). Each of the team members will also have a small sleeping cot and desk inside their rooms. And while limited internet access is available, there will be a lengthy communication delay when sending any kind of message, further simulating life on the Red Planet.
With such a small amount of space, no real outside access and bad food, we can only imagine the kind of conflicts that will arise. NASA, however, reports that that’s all a part of the experiment.
The agency is hoping to put its first man on Mars sometime in the 2030s, adding that any human mission to the Red Planet would likely last between one and three years. An eight-month isolation mission has already been completed, which should give us some insight into how this one might play out.
Jocelyn Dunn, a crew member from the previous mission, actually spoke about it quite positively. She said she loved all the inside jokes that developed, doing P90X workouts on the daily and added, shockingly, that the food never became boring (they figured out how to make pizza with the ingredients available).
“I guess I got a taste of marriage, albeit a hexagon of relationships rather than a dyad,” she wrote on her blog. “I couldn’t believe how much I had missed the flavours and textures of a juicy steak.”
When the team finally does exit next year, we’re sure it’ll be a breath of fresh air indeed.