Mars simulation crew 'return to Earth' after one-year isolation

Above: Nasa's mock Mars crew lived in a geodesic dome set in an environment similar to that of the Red Planet at approximately 8,200 feet above sea level in Hawaii.
Above: Nasa's mock Mars crew lived in a geodesic dome set in an environment similar to that of the Red Planet at approximately 8,200 feet above sea level in Hawaii. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Above: The crew, which included a pilot and an architect, after completing the year-long experiment.
Above: The crew, which included a pilot and an architect, after completing the year-long experiment. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LOS ANGELES • The six people who went into isolation for a year in Hawaii to help the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (Nasa) plan for a mission to Mars have emerged, happy to breathe fresh air and meet new people.

The team was based on a barren, northern slope of Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, living inside a dome that is 11m in diameter and 6m tall.

French astrobiologist Cyprien Verseux said that he was "feeling excited" about being in the open and eating fresh food again.

The most challenging aspect of the experiment was the monotony, he said in a Periscope interview by organisers posted on Twitter.

Crew members experienced no seasons inside the dome and were able to go outside dressed only in spacesuits.

Nevertheless, Mr Verseux was upbeat about the experiment results.

"A mission to Mars in the near future is realistic," he said. "The technical and psychological problems can be overcome."

The crew also included a German physicist and four Americans - a pilot, an architect, a doctor/journalist and a soil scientist.

The dome was located in a place with no animals and little vegetation. The team members locked themselves in on Aug 28 last year.

The men and women had their own small rooms, with space for a sleeping cot and desk, and spent their days eating food like powdered cheese and canned tuna.

They had limited access to the Internet.

Nasa's current technology can send a robotic mission to the Red Planet in eight months, but any astronauts who would travel to Mars face a trip that would take between one and three years.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline 'Mars simulation crew 'return to Earth' after one-year isolation'. Print Edition | Subscribe