Just underway, it sounds like the worst spring break ever or perhaps the start of a season of Survivor – and it’s all for science.

On the one hand, it involves spending four months in Hawaii. On their other hand, you are sharing a 1,000-square-foot habitat with five strangers – and you’re all 8,200 feet up the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano.

The object is to replicate a mission to Mars.

The program, run by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA, is called Hi-SEAS - which stands for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation.

Here are some of the conditions the three men and three women are facing in the geodesic dome they entered last week:

  • They can go outside only in bulky simulated space suits.
  • Each person is allowed just eight minutes in the shower per week.
  • All outside communication is through email, with a delay of 20 minutes between sending and receiving.
  • Scientists are intentionally putting them under stress in order to measure their psychological state. In layman’s terms, will they go a bit “space mad”?

A previous HI-SEAS mission focused on what visitors to Mars might eat. If all goes well, the next mission will last eight months, followed by another for an entire year.

Here is a link to the mission’s Facebook page.

 

A view of the HI-SEAS habitat getting set up on Mauna Loa.
Photo: HI-SEAS/NASA/U of HI