The fifth of its kind Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (Hi-SEAS) mission has commenced at a secluded place in Hawaii with six scientists entering a dome perched atop a remote volcano.
The astronaut-like scientists will spend the next eight months in isolation to simulate life for astronauts traveling to Mars. Through this study as well its previous iterations, scientists at NASA will better understand human behavior and performance during long space missions as the U.S. space agency explores plans for a manned mission to the Red Planet.
As part of the mission, the crew will perform geological field work and basic daily tasks in the 1,200-square-foot (365 m) dome, located in an abandoned quarry 8,000 feet (2.5 km) above sea level on the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island.
This particular location has been selected because it has little vegetation and to simulate other Mars like conditions, scientists will have no contact with the outside world. Further, to match the 20-minute travel time of radio waves passing between Earth and Mars, the communications with a mission control team will be time-delayed.
Scientists will prepare food from shelf-stable ingredients; will carry out their routine including exercise, research and fieldwork that have been aligned with NASA’s planetary exploration expectations. Through this mission, scientists intend to create guidelines for future missions to Mars, some 35 million miles (56 million km) away, a long-term goal of the U.S. human space program.
NASA funded HI-SEAS missions 2, 3 and 4 with a $1.2 million grant and has provided $1 million for missions 5 and 6 (scheduled for 2018).