6 scientists emerge from year-long Mars isolation experiment

29 Aug 2016

Six scientists have emerged from their dome on the barren plain of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, after a year in isolation as part of an experiment to see how humans would cope in a similar situation on Mars.

As Elton John once sang, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids, in fact it’s cold as hell”, and six scientists who took part in a year-long isolation study now have some idea of what it would be like to live on the Red Planet.

According to The Guardian, the scientists were living within the confines of 20ftx36ft dome located on the volcanic plain of Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

Future Human

This was the longest such isolation experiment to have been conducted at Mauna Loa, with previous missions lasting between four and eight months.

In an attempt to replicate life on the surface of Mars as closely as possible, the scientists were limited to whatever resources they had or could grow within the dome.

However, the team was allowed to leave the confines of the dome as long as they wore a full spacesuit, as if they were on Mars.

Thankfully for the researchers – four of whom were American, along with one French and one German scientist – no conflicts emerged on board and, based on their initial feedback, it would appear they are optimistic about future Mars missions.

‘A mission to Mars in the close future is realistic’

In a detailed blog just prior to her leaving the dome, American team member Sheyna Gifford said: “I can basically promise that by going to space we’ll learn what it takes to keep people healthy in places with heat, light, and gravity.

“We’ve already started. We’ve been at it for decades. I’ve been at it for 12 months straight, been on call for almost 365.25 days.”

Similarly, French team member Cypren Verseux said upon leaving the dome: “I can give you my personal impression, which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic. I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome.”

A year in isolation might sound like a long time, but the current record for an isolation study saw six volunteers spend 520 days locked in a steel room in a Russian hangar emerging in 2011.

Manua Loa image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic