Reaching Mars has plenty of challenges. One that can be overlooked sometimes is the psychological impact on the astronauts heading to the red planet.
Today, NASA expects a Mars mission to happen in the 2030s. Will we actually hit that mark? Who knows, I’ve been hearing about potential Mars missions since I was a child.
Anyways, a Mars mission would have astronauts away from Earth for about 3 years. It would take six months to get there, 500 days on the planet and another six months back.
“Right now, the psychological risks are still not completely understood and not completely corrected for,” Kimberly Binsted, a professor of information and computer sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said to the New York Times.
How can we better understand the psychological impact of a Mars mission? Lock six people up in a dome on a Hawaiian volcano. According to the NYT, the group will spend the next eight months in the dome, simulating a prolonged stay on Mars.
The six folks in the dome volunteered and were selected for the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS). You can read more about the group inside the dome here. Here’s a few photos of the habitat courtesy of HI-SEAS.
Don’t worry, NASA isn’t keeping them fully isolated. They can communicate with people outside the dome using email. But, each email is delayed by at least 20 minutes. Sending an email and getting a reply would take at least 40 minutes.
NASA will let them check their banking accounts and access a few websites while they are in the dome. Got to make sure those bills keep getting paid.
Give me Reddit and Netflix, and I’ll simulate the entire Mars trip.
The HI-SEAS 3 Mission is 6 days in with another 265 days to go.
How about you? Could you handle 3 years around the same five people?