Mark Linnhoefer – A French astrobiologist, a German physicist, and four Americans – an architect, a journalist, and a soil scientist – began living in a dome near a volcano in Hawaii to simulate life on Mars at 1am GMT on Saturday.
The experiment is the longest of its kind so far, and focuses more on the human than on the scientific aspect of a manned mission to Mars. The usual isolation experiments last between four and eight months, but as estimates for the time needed for a mission to Mars range from one to three years, a longer trial had to be undertaken.
The six team members will each have a small cot to sleep on and a desk in their rooms, but otherwise close to no privacy.
There will furthermore be neither fresh food nor fresh air. The rations include cheese and canned tuna, and if anyone wants to leave the dome they will have to wear a spacesuit to do so.
Other experiments focus on technical and scientific aspects, but as interpersonal conflicts can’t be avoided during missions of such length, according to NASA investigator Kim Binsted, this experiment focuses on the human component when living in a close area for a prolonged period of time.
This isolation will certainly show what conflicts arise during such a mission and also gives an answer to the interesting question of how long humans can go living in a small space with each other before resorting to violence.