A dress rehearsal for the upcoming human mission to Mars has started in Hawaii, writes the Guardian. NASA has announced the beginning of an experimental mission in which specially chosen participants need to survive mentally and physically in a limited space and cut off from the rest of the world for a period of one year.
A six-member international team of scientists is taking part in the experiment. The team consists of one French astrobiologist, a German physicist and 4 Americans - a pilot, architect, doctor and soil scientist. The room which the experts will have to inhabit in the next 12 months is dome shaped, 36 ft (11 m) in diameter and 19.5 ft (6 m) high.
Still, NASA has decided not to try to push the volunteers to their limits and has provided small conveniences and separate rooms for each of them.
But despite this their life will not be easy at all. The men and women will only be able to leave the dome while wearing suits. Their meals will consist mainly of powdered foods and canned fish. Their Internet access will be limited.
The test site is located at the foothills of Mauna Loa mountain in Hawaii, which are lifeless due to the volcanic activity. The area has no vegetation or animals, while the entire area looks like the surface of the Red Planet.
Through their experiment, NASA aims to determine the optimal time a person can go without fresh water, food and air.
The experiment is a joint project by NASA and the University of Hawaii. It is believed that the results received will be of vital importance for the upcoming mission to Mars, expected to take place in 2030.
Since 2013, this has been the 4th team of volunteers to willingly put themselves in exile in the autonomous complex of the Hawaiian islands. The 1st 2 groups lived there for 4 months each, the 3rd lasted 2 months longer.
NASA has so far spent around $1.5 million for the experiment. 2016 is planned to have a budget twice the size.
So far, the longest experiment of this nature, having to do with extended isolation, was carried out in Russia in the 2010-2011 year period. That was when a team of Russian, Chinese, French and Italian scientists spent 520 days in a closed module.