• How is it like to live on Mars? Six scientists emerge from a simulation Martian dome after 8 months.

How is it like to live on Mars? Six scientists emerge from a simulation Martian dome after 8 months. (Photo : HI-SEAS)

After eight months, six scientists have finally emerged from living inside a dome near the slopes of a Hawaiian volcano where they have become totally isolated, immersed in a simulation of what life on Mars would be like.

On Saturday, June 13, the entire crew stepped out for the first time in months from the dome located some 8,000 feet high in the slopes of Mauna Loa where they felt fresh air on their skin, marking the first time that they went outside the dome without wearing a spacesuit.

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This simulation project is apparently part of a human performance study under NASA called HI-SEAS (Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) where the space agency monitored the team on how they worked together.

Using surveillance cameras, movement trackers attached on their bodies and electronic surveys, NASA collected data on how the scientists were able to cope in an artificial Martian environment.

According to scientist and crew member, Jocelyn Dunn, it was great to feel the sensation of wind on her skin in months. Dunn who is also from Purdue University adds that when she first walked out the exit, she felt scared when she did not have the suit on and realized that they have been pretending for so long, isolated in the Martian dome environment. 

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. There are windows in the dome but all the scientists could see are lava fields and mountain terrain.

With this new data that includes the crew's emotional levels and performance inside the isolation dome, this can help mission control for future Martian missions to immediately detect depression or even communication problems due to psychological effects from space.

Eight months in a confined space with other crew members can obviously become challenging however the crew had solutions to alleviate stress levels such as team workouts and yoga as well. They can also use a treadmill along with a stationary bike but this is only limited to afternoons on sunny days due to solar panels.

Dunn says it's fine and fun if you are having a good day to share it with friends but during a bad day, it is truly hard to be in a confined space since you can no longer go for a walk since it is seen by everyone.

Crew members relished real food after spending months in the dome where they had watermelon, peaches and croissants after a diet of freeze dried chili.

Scientists were also limited to six minutes of showering for only once a week, where they are now looking forward for a swim. Dunn adds submerging into the water as long as it takes with the sun shining will be amazing, right now, I feel like a ghost.