The year-long mission to a simulated Mars ended late last month, as the six participating scientists stepped out of their habitation and for the time in a seeming eon, breathed in the fresh Hawaii air atop Earth's largest volcano.
The moment was captured by filmmakers Lauren DeFilippo and Katherine Gorringe, who are working on a documentary about the mission, Red Heaven. (They're currently in the final laps of a crowdfunding effort on Kickstarter). The film, a "passion project," closely follows the six participants of NASA's HI-SEAS mission as they struggle to live together inside a two-story, 1,500-square-foot dome, at an elevation of 8,000 feet on the slope of Mauna Loa, powered by the sun and batteries, limited food supplies, and a determination to pave the way for future Martian explorers.
To capture all the ins and outs, DeFilippo and Gorringe gave the scientists cameras and specific instructions, an arrangement not unlike that of other space documentaries, like this year's A Beautiful Planet. Life on fake Mars wasn't easy: in addition to simulated emergencies, boredom, personal tensions, and problems with the bathroom all added stress to (and generated valuable data from) the longest such simulation so far: previous HI-SEAS missions lasted around four months each, and the last was eight months long.
Read about the challenges of that mission (part of Dan Oberhaus' series on Earth-bound space simulations), and watch this brief peek into the most recent mission's life in a bubble on the side of a volcano.