Bengaluru: After eight long months in isolation on the slopes of a remote, inert Hawaiian volcano, six NASA research subjects will finally emerge to the world this Sunday. The participants weren’t really trapped, they weren’t the victims of a horrendous rockslide or something of the sort. They were actually part of a long-term experiment to study the how astronauts would fare on Mars.
The four men and two women have been quarantined at the location since January this year. They’ve been restricted to freeze-dried and canned food for the entire duration, and their only communication with the outside world, radios linked to a nearby research NASA station were subjected to 20 minute delays. That’s how long as it would take signals to travel between Mars and Earth
The project was a study of how isolation in an inhospitable environment would affect future settlers on Mars, including being forced to live in a cramped habitat, donning special suits for infrequent trips outdoors, relying solely on packaged food, and having virtually no contact with another living soul. NASA eventually plans to send astronauts on two and three-year-long missions to the red planet in the 2030s, so the data gathered from this study would help the space agency pick crew members better suited to the physically and psychologically rigorous situation.
During the eight months on site, the research subjects wore specially designed sensors to help gauge their moods during the prolonged proximity to a small team, and their cramped living quarters, just 111-square meters. The participants were also required to keep written logs detailing their state of mind, and were provided with VR devices to help take a break from the situation from time to time.