Six emerge from eight-month Mars experiment in Hawaii dome

The Hi-Seas V crew poses for a group photo after completing their mock Mars mission.
The Hi-Seas V crew poses for a group photo after completing their mock Mars mission.PHOTO: HI-SEAS

MIAMI (AFP) - Six people have emerged from an isolated dome in Hawaii where they spent the past eight months on a mock Mars mission, living in close quarters, eating dried foods and trying to get along.

The experiment, run by the University of Hawaii, was the fifth of its kind aimed at helping scientists iron out the fights and inter-personal conflicts that are certain to arise among astronauts embarking on any long mission to deep space.

The four men and two women emerged from their dome on Sunday, eager for a taste of fresh fruit, home-cooked dinners and the feeling of fresh air on their faces.

"For me one of the things I missed from home was Portuguese cooking," said crew member Brian Ramos, in a video broadcast by CBS News.

The programme is funded by Nasa, which hopes to send the first astronauts to the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.

That eventual crew's ability to get along - and its mix of personalities - will be key to a fruitful mission, said Kim Binsted, who leads the research for the University of Hawaii's Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (Hi-Seas).

"Having some variety is a good thing," she said in the video aired by CBS.

"In a sense we are trying to put together a tool box for Mars and if you have a tool box you don't fill it up with hammers - even if they are the best hammers in the solar system."

Binsted said that while conflict is inevitable, overall, the latest crew did well when it came to their key tasks.

Scientists monitored the team's face-to-face interactions for signs of emotional conflict, and gave them virtual reality headsets to manage stress.

To make the experiment more realistic to conditions in space, crew members had to don spacesuits anytime they exited the dome, located on a remote slope in Mauna Loa.

They were also able to email friends and family, but with a 20-minute delay.

The next eight-month long Hi-Seas experiment starts in January 2018.