Could you live for eight months in a dome – about the size of two two-car garages stacked one on top of the other – sealed in with five coworkers? You’d be monitored via surveillance cameras and body-movement trackers. You’d have email and internet, but with a twenty minute lag (makes my rural-America internet look great!) You’d have some work to do outside your dome, but you’d have to wear a space suit.
Sound like a new reality show?
It’s a NASA Mars Analog – the third mission ended recently. They’re learning what makes life more bearable – I noticed a few recipe contests – and what personality traits go into the best teams.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa leads this study, with support from team members at Cornell University, Michigan State University, Arizona State University, University of South Florida, the University of Maryland, the Institutes for Behavior Resources, Smart Information Flow Technologies, Blue Planet Foundation, and from the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES). http://hi-seas.org/
NASA’s not the only outfit worried about the technical and psychological problems that may assault the first humans on the Red Planet. The Mars Society has run over a dozen short Mars simulations.
Not all the obstacles can be tested on Earth: not the effects of low gravity, invasive dust, and the fact that no one can help you – at least, not for a long time. But we can study the social, interpersonal, and cognitive factors that affect teams. Biosphere Two tried a two-year experiment and that team had numerous interpersonal conflicts.
Of course, eight months may not be long enough to simulate what it will be like to be a Martian. Some volunteers are ready to spend the rest of their lives on Mars. It will be difficult and dangerous. Would you go?