Astronauts Return after Mars Simulation Mission

Astronauts Return after Mars Simulation Mission

After nearly a year spent in isolation, the astronauts have finally ended the Mars simulation study. The aim of the study was to psychological effects of prolonged isolation and cohabitation.

The study took place in a geodesic dome, in Hawaii, on the Mauna Loa volcano. The NASA researchers chose this location because the natural conditions of the volcano are perfect for Mars simulation.  The dome was approximately 8.200 feet above sea level.

These types of studies are essential if scientists can ever hope to send manned-missions to Mars. Even though they may seem harsh. Learning about the physical and psychological effects of living for such a long period of time in a relatively small space is extremely important.

NASA estimates that it would take about six months just to reach the planet. Then, it would take about 18 to 20 months for our planet and Mars to realign, so the astronauts can come back home. And that’s another 6 months of travel. So, all and all, a team would have to spend around 3 years away from Earth. And they would have to be either in their space suits, or inside the ship all this time.

Regarding Mars simulation studies, Tristan Bassingthwaighte said, ”The UH [Hawaii University] research going on up here is just super vital when it comes to picking crews, figuring out how people are going to actually work on different kinds of missions, and sort of the human factors element of space travel, colonization, whatever it is you are actually looking at”

Mars Simulation Shows Most Valuable Assets Are Still Human Elements

There are now all sorts of sophisticate modern equipment, capable of making incredibly complex calculations in mere seconds. These are the things that make these missions possible. However,  there are some things they still can’t do. As such, picking out the right combination of team members is going to be essential for the success of any mission of this type.

These sort of experiments might help future researchers get an idea of more delicate, and ambiguous parameters for success. Parameters such as personality, how certain people get along, and how they fare in harsh conditions cannot be measured using traditional instruments.

This is not the only study of its kind. The European Space Agency has conducted similar Mars Simulation experiments in Concordia, Antarctica and Moscow.

NASA itself has conducted two other similar experiments. In 2011, the research took place in the Mojave Desert. They used the harsh environment as a way to test out how the astronauts would interact with the geographic and geological make-up of Mars.

Researchers also used this opportunity to test out new concepts for spacesuits and other equipment. But in all three cases, the scientists were mostly interested to see how the crewmembers interacted with each other. And how they managed to deal with the conditions of a long mission in space.

One of the astronauts involved in this year’s Mars simulation, Cyprien Verseux  has said, “a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic. I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome.”

Sending a crew of people to Mars no longer seems like such a distant dream. For this reason, these types of programs have been receiving more and more funds. This project alone is funded until 2019. Odds are we might very well see the first people landing on Mars in our lifetime.

Image Source: Wikimedia