A six person team of NASA recruits plans to spend the next year locked in an isolation dome near a Hawaiian volcano as part of an experiment meant to simulate life on Mars. The team will live without fresh air, fresh food or any semblance of privacy inside the dome, which measures 36 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall.
Four Americans -- including a pilot, an architect, a soil scientist and a journalist -- will take part in the experiment, along with a German physicist and a French astrobiologist. The door was sealed at 9 p.m., local time, Friday (1 GMT Saturday). Crew members will document their experiences so NASA can prepare for any astronaut conflicts that might arise on a possible year-long voyage.
“I think one of the lessons is that you can't really prevent interpersonal conflicts. It is going to happen over these long-duration missions, even with the very best people,” Kim Binsted, a NASA investigator, told BBC News. “But what you can do is help people be resilient so they respond well to the problems and can resolve them and continue to perform well as team.”
Each participant will have a small room with a sleeping cot and desk. The dome is stocked with canned tuna, powdered cheese and other nonperishable foods. They'll have limited Internet access and will need to don a spacesuit whenever they leave the dome.
This test comes after previous co-habitation studies that lasted four months and then eight months. Results of the previous studies are expected to be released within a year, NASA officials have said. Mauna Loa, a Hawaiian volcano, was chosen as the location because, with little vegetation and even fewer animals, the barren landscape resembles the surface of Mars.