Modeling Mars in Hawaii

While simulating life on Mars, the six participants will reside in a geodesic dome for eight months. Courtesy of

In an effort to prepare astronauts for life on Mars, the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA) is conducting research in a simulated environment on Earth that resembles the journey to and life on the second-smallest planet in the solar system.
NASA has previously conducted various simulations to collect data about life on Mars. Researchers then weave this information into future simulations. The “astronauts” on these missions seek to discover the best strategies for survival on Mars, such as methods for food preparation, coping mechanisms for sensory deprivation, and how to function in isolation, according to

While simulating life on Mars, the six participants will reside in a geodesic dome for eight months. Courtesy of

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) at the University of Hawaii-Manoa is currently conducting the latest simulation. NASA has given numerous grants to HI-SEAS to conduct research in Hawaii because its geographical conditions are similar to those of Mars. Four men and two women entered a geodesic dome in Hawaii January 19 where they will reside for eight months, according to The six test subjects moved into a vinyl-coated pod just below the summit of the world’s largest active volcano, Mauna Loa, which is 8,200 feet above sea level. Here they will eat freeze-dried foods, live in crowded quarters, and undergo a 20-minute delay in all communications, which is the length of time it takes a message to travel from Mars to Earth, according to
The habitation in Hawaii is an extremely isolated environment, as it is removed from all forms of civilization, according to The New York Times. Whenever the crew members leave this 1,200 square-foot dome, they must wear spacesuits. Their only contact with the outside world is through email, and they execute daily tasks while managing their food, water, and energy usage, according to The New York Times.
The goal of this particular simulation is to discover the factors that contribute to the group’s positivity and cohesion. Specifically, researchers seek to determine whether a group of astronauts traveling to Mars functions best as an autonomous group or when they receive instructions from mission control on Earth. For this reason, the amount of independence the participants have will vary over time, allowing researchers to track changes in their moods and how they function in relation to other group members.
Researchers have provided each participant with an instrument that measures his or her mood and physical proximity to others. They can attempt to improve their moods, however, by using virtual reality devices that simulate the familiar environment of life on Earth, according to
“I think one of the lessons is that you really can’t prevent interpersonal conflicts. It is going to happen over these long-duration missions, even with the very best people,” HI-SEAS principal investigator and University of Hawaii-Manoa Professor Ms. Kim Binsted said, according to
Six individuals are participating in the simulation in Hawaii in preparation for life on Mars. From left to right: Mr. Joshua Ehrlich, Ms. Laura Lark, Mr. Sam Payler, Mr. Brian Ramos, Mr. Jay Bevington and Ms. Ansley Barnard. Courtesy of

The mission of not only sending humans to Mars but also establishing some semblance of civilization on the planet has been at the frontier of political and technological realms over the past year. For example, in October former President Mr. Barack Obama set a goal of sending humans to Mars and back by the 2030s. Additionally, Chief Executive Officer of Tesla and SpaceX Mr. Elon Musk decreed in June that he plans to send humans to Mars by 2024. In September, prior to his speech at the International Aeronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mr. Musk shared a video chronicling his plans to construct a city of one million inhabitants on Mars, according to
Mr. Musk’s plan “involves a slew of new technology: gigantic, reusable rockets, carbon fiber fuel tanks, ultra-powered engines, plus spaceships capable of carrying a hundred or more passengers to the Red Planet, landing, then returning to Earth to pick up more,” according to
Much of the technology necessary to survive on Mars already exists, but the challenge lies in the psychological aspects of living in this unconventional environment. The dominant objective of this simulation is determining the ideal way for these six individuals to work together, maintain productivity, and civilly operate in a small space for a long period of time, according to
As NASA continues to collaborate with HI-SEAS to study life on Mars, the prospect that there may be a link between the history of Earth and the history of Mars is motivating researchers, according to The New York Times.
“Since 2012, HI-SEAS has been contributing to NASA’s plans for long-duration space exploration. We are an international collaboration of crew, researchers, and mission support, and I’m proud of the part we play in helping reduce the barriers to a human journey to Mars,” Ms. Binsted said, according to
Sacred Heart Greenwich Astronomy Technician Mr. Rick Bria believes that sending humans to Mars will serve as a valuable asset to understanding the human race.

“Sending humans to Mars would teach us much about human physiology and psychology, perhaps more important discoveries than exploring Mars itself.  Imagine the strain on humans embarking on a mission of three or more years. That is what experiments like HI-SEAS are trying to explore,” Mr. Bria said. “What if someone requires a medical operation? Will one of the crew be a doctor? What if the doctor falls ill? What social rules should be in place? What would be the monetary cost of such a mission? There are countless issues that arise by sending humans. I applaud NASA for experiments such as HI-SEAS. We need to explore; we need to know what is over the horizon […] or fail to grow as a race.”

– Jade Cohen, Content Editor