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HI-SEAS launches year-long isolation experiment to mimic life on Mars

By Marilyn Malara
The HI-SEAS mission is part of ongoing research conducted by University of Hawai'i at Manoa to help NASA prepare for long-duration space missions. Photo courtesy HI-SEAS/University of Hawai'i at Manoa
The HI-SEAS mission is part of ongoing research conducted by University of Hawai'i at Manoa to help NASA prepare for long-duration space missions. Photo courtesy HI-SEAS/University of Hawai'i at Manoa

MAUNA LOA, Hawaii, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Six scientists have begun a yearlong isolation experiment from within a small dome to mimic life on Mars.

The latest Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission commenced Friday, Aug. 28, and is part of ongoing research at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, funded by NASA, to test the limits of long-duration space exploration. The team, including Sheyna Gifford, Tristan Bassingthewaighte, Carmel Johnston, Andrzej Stewart, Cyprien Verseux and Christiane Heinicke closed the door to their 100 square-foot home at 3:00 p.m. local time.

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The team's dome sits along the side of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano and measures 36 feet in diameter and two stories tall.

The dome will not allow access to fresh air, fresh food or much private space. However, each member has a small dorm room they can use for privacy. Spacesuits are required for any visits outside of the dome, per the experiment's requirements.

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Food provided will come in packets and cans, including powdered cheese and tuna. The University of Hawaii reported the crew members -- a group of scientists, a pilot and an engineer -- will be monitored by cameras, body movement trackers, and electronic surveys. Researchers will collect data on the group's general cohesion over time.

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This is HI-SEAS' fourth and longest isolation experiment, their previous one lasting eight months. "The longer each mission becomes, the better we can understand the risks of space travel," Kim Binsted, HI-SEAS principal investigator and UH professor said.

The experiment is costing NASA about $1.2 million, and the space agency has reportedly given the program another million for more missions.

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Third HI-SEAS mission accomplished from University of Hawai'i System on Vimeo.

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