Sunday, September 17, will mark the final day of an eight months long experiment which had a team of six researchers backed by NASA live in isolation on a volcano in Hawaii.
The scientists will emerge from a specially created habitat that mimics the conditions which travelers to the outer space are likely to face. For example, the team had to work with a 20-minutes communication delay between its base and the mission center.
The team of six researchers has been living ever since January on a remote volcano in Hawaii. Their habitat was placed on a vast plain below the summit of one the largest active volcanoes in the world.
Composed of two women and four men, the crew is part of an isolation experiment whose target was to better understand the psychological impacts of living in confinement for an extended period of time. Reportedly, the results will be used by NASA to better select the crews of years long outer-space missions.
These could have certain traits, which would allegedly help them fare better during a two to three years long manned expedition towards Mars. NASA is working on deploying such a mission to the Red Planet by the 2030s.
The Fifth but Not Final Isolation Experiment?
The team of six people involved in this isolation experiment has been living in a 1,200-square foot dome, and its primary food source has been canned or freeze-dried goods. The researchers were also asked to wear sensors that were specially designed to gauge their proximity to the other members, as well as their moods.
Based on several factors, such as their voice levels, the sensors were capable of detecting if the crew members were avoiding one another or perhaps arguing. A series of specially assigned games also measured their stress levels and compatibility.
In case things got stressful, the team did nonetheless have an outlet. They could use virtual reality devices to ‘go’ anywhere they wanted. The crew also had to keep written logs in which they expressed how they felt.
“This is our fifth mission, […]. We’ve learned, for one thing, that conflict, even in the best of teams, is going to arise. So what’s really important is to have a crew that, both as individuals and a group, is really resilient, is able to look at that conflict and come back from it.”
This is according to Kim Binstead, the lead investigator of the project and part of the University of Hawaii. The current mission is the fifth in a series of six. According to reports, the university is already starting to plan Mission 6.
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