In case you missed it, last Sunday six people walked outside on the slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawaii for the first time in a year without wearing a spacesuit. Why would you wear a spacesuit in Hawaii, you ask? Because Mars.
The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) experiment is an attempt to simulate a long-duration Mars environment here on Earth. Long before The Martian, scientists and engineers have been researching what it would take for humans to travel to Mars and to live and work on its surface. That means not only what is required physically, but emotionally and psychologically as well. HI-SEAS is primarily focused on behavioral research in order to better understand how to select a team of astronauts that can work effectively in an isolated and confining environment.
The six team members of this year-long study (three women and three men) lived in a habitat of only 1,200 square feet with each crew member having only a closet sized area to themselves. To simulate living on Mars, the crew had to go through spacesuit and airlock procedures anytime they wanted to exit or re-enter the facility, just like an astronaut would. They also ate a lot of freeze-dried meat and dealt with a 20-minute delay in all communications with the outside world. The biggest factor they were unable to simulate is the reduced gravity of Mars (roughly 1/3rd of Earth).
Potentially one of the coolest things they had, which current astronauts don't yet benefit from, was virtual reality (VR). Crew members were able to virtually experience messages sent from home as well as construct their own virtual environments. (I can definitely see that coming in handy when you need an escape.)
If you want to read more about HI-SEAS and what this crew had to say about their experience, I recommend this article by Nadia Drake.
Here's some more geek from the week:
- Jellyfish in the Mediterranean Ocean may be affected by the lunar cycle.
- Remember Lucy, the the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis skelton? New analysis of her bones theorizes that she may have died falling from a tree.
- A lightening strike in Norway killed a heard of 323 reindeer.
- Bats are massive disease transmitters yet they never seem to get sick.
- Modern forensics can be traced to the murder trial of Prof. John White Webster in 1849.
- This year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and you have science to thank for that.
- Currents created by Olympic swimmers in Rio could have altered athletes speeds, and maybe results.
- Microsoft and MIT are developing smart tattoos that could enable you to control your smartphone. [VIDEO]
- Watch how liquid nitrogen skates across the surface of different liquids. [VIDEO]
- What do the Incas and astronauts have in common? Freeze-dried food.
- Former astronaut Mark Kelly is approximately 5 milliseconds older than his twin brother, former astronaut Scott Kelly, after Scott's year in space.
Keep on geeking!
@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist