Neil Scheibelhut-AP The dome where six scientists lived an isolated existence to simulate life on a mission to Mars, on the bleak slopes of dormant volcano Mauna Loa near Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The scientists are a part of a human efficiency research funded by NASA that is monitoring how they work collectively as a workforce. Operating in complete isolation, the scientists were monitored by surveillance cameras, body-movement trackers and electronic surveys to track how they worked as a team.
Crew member Jocelyn Dunn said it was awesome to feel the sensation of wind on her skin.
“When we first walked out the door, it was scary not to have a suit on,” the PhD student said. (A quirky detail from the Star-Advertiser: The crew blasted ’80s rock anthem “The Final Countdown” on repeat before exiting.) “We’ve been pretending for so long“.
According to principal investigator Kim Binsted from the University of Hawaii, the reason why the crew was so disoriented after stepping out the dome is due to the uncanny location of the volcanic region where the whole dome was filled with silence simulated from an airlock seal that produced a space like environment.
Researchers also examined the dynamics of teamwork and communication to anticipate how a crew in outer space might problem solve or handle a depressed team member. “So this is a way for people today on the ground to detect cohesion-connected difficulties prior to they turn into a true problem”.
Crewmembers relieved stress during their confined stay by doing yoga and team workouts, and using a solar-powered treadmill on sunny days. “It’s fun. You have friends around to share in the enjoyment of a good day”, Dunn said. “But if you have a bad day, it is actually hard to be in a confined atmosphere. You can’t get out and go for a walk…it’s constantly witnessed by everyone”. Their diet consisted mainly of freeze-dried chili.
Next on Dunn’s list: going for a swim.
Real-life astronauts will face similar isolated conditions on the way to Mars, so it’s crucial that we understand how the mission will affect them and how to minimize any negative effects. Dunn adds submerging into the water as long as it takes with the Sunday shining will be fantastic, right now, I feel like a ghost.
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