Scientists just spent a year ‘on Mars.’ What did they learn?

Six international scientists who spent a year in near isolation to simulate life on Mars came out of their dome in Hawaii on August 28 excited about the future of human space exploration.

“A mission to Mars in the close future is realistic,” said Cyprien Verseux, a crew member from France. “I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome.”

For the past year, the group in the dome on the Mauna Loa volcano could go outside only while wearing spacesuits.

Astronauts in the NASA-funded program, known as Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), had to manage limited resources in their habitat while conducting research and working to avoid personal conflicts.

Christiane Heinicke, a crew member from Germany, said the scientists were able to find their own water in a dry climate.

“Showing that it works, you can actually get water from the ground that is seemingly dry. It would work on Mars and the implication is that you would be able to get water on Mars from this little greenhouse construct,” she said.

Tristan Bassingthwaighte, a doctor of architecture candidate at the University of Hawaii, served as the crew’s architect.

In addition to this experiment in Hawaii, NASA has been preparing for long-duration spaceflight by studying human health on long space missions, developing robots and rockets and even growing the first potential space potatoes.

Kim Binsted, principal investigator for the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, said the researchers are looking forward to getting in the ocean and eating fresh produce and other foods that weren’t available in the dome.

NASA funded the study run through the University of Hawaii. The simulation was the second-longest of its kind after a mission that lasted 520 days in Russia, Binsted said.