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Friday, September 25, 2015

Six People Go On A "Yearlong Mission To Mars"

On August 28th, six people, three men and three women, went to Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. Instead of vacationing there they are locking themselves up in a solar-powered dome, with everything they need. The six people volunteered for NASA's experiment to see what would happen when they have been isolated for long periods of time. This is the fourth program to ready people for the journey to Mars.

The simulated Mars-like environment has a two-story dome that is 36 ft in diameter and 20 ft in height. It is located at an 8,000 ft elevation in a rocky volcanic landscape. The downstairs area of the dome has a lab, kitchen, a shared workspace, an exercise room, and a bathroom. On the upstairs floor, there are six small bedrooms. The food they have include a year supply of freeze dried food and drinks. When the people have to step out of the dome to collect soil samples they have to pretend they are astronauts.

The dome has been equipped with cameras and body movement trackers to watch the crew. NASA's Principal Investigator Kim Benstead says that he hopes the trip will help with the Mars trip in the future. This is not the longest trip NASA has sent people on. In 2010, the European Space Agency's Mars 500 mission sent six people to a 1000 square foot unit for 520 days. The volunteers did suffer sleep deprivation and health problem. Of course, they are going to address this problem and many others that occur before the real trip to Mars.


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