After living for 120 days in a habitat built to simulate a Mars spaceflight, the HI-SEAS 2 crew, short for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, came home today. And they livestreamed their homecoming via Google Hangout this afternoon.
The research mission, funded by NASA, is an attempt to study what a space flight crew would to survive relatively comfortably during an extended mission to Mars, or on the Red Planet itself.
Before they exited the simulated habitat, crew members gave viewers a tour of their hut and shared impressions from their four-month stay. The habitat is located at approximately 8,000 feet elevation in an abandoned quarry on Mauna Loa, on Hawaii's Big Island. The HI-SEAS website describes the living conditions:
The habitat, based on a dome supplied by Pacific Domes International with internal two-story structure designed by V. Paul Ponthieux of Envision Design, was built by the Blue Planet Foundation of Honolulu, Hawaii. The geodesic dome is 36 feet in diameter , enclosing a volume of 13,570 cubic feet.
The ground floor has an area of 993 square feet (878 square feet usable) and includes common areas such as kitchen, dining, bathroom with shower, lab, exercise, and common spaces. The second floor loft spans an area of 424 square feet and includes six separate staterooms and a half bath. In addition, a 160 square foot workshop converted from a 20-foot high steel shipping container is attached to the habitat.
With its open concept design, the first floor features a kitchen, dining room, common work space, exercise area, and lab. The second floor contains six crew sleeping quarters and a bathroom (check out this video on how toilets might work on Mars).
Dropping in on the group's broadcast, I found the team members talking about the habitat's wifi services and telemetry room, before taking viewers on a tour of the laundry facilities. While this might seem boring to some, HI-SEAS is tasked with imagining what quotidian life might be in an actual Mars habitat.
“It's a lot more than pretending to be astronauts for a few months on the top of a volcano,” said crew member and Air Force Reserve officer Casey Stedman, noting how the crew's work will prove useful for future space missions, before being drawn into a foam sword battle.
Another team member, Condensed Matter Physicist PhD candidate Ross Lockwood, showed off the group's 3D-printer. Lockwood said the crew made a fabric holder for the air-lock doors, as well as magnets shaped like the HI-SEAS dome, amongst others. He then ran the 3D printer to create a few more domed magnets, which sounded rather fittingly like a spacefaring musical number.
Floor plan of the HI-SEAS 2 habitat. Image: HI-SEAS
Lucie Poulet, a research associate and Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Space Systems of the German Aerospace Center in Bremen, also gave some impressions of life in the habitat. Poulet, who works at designing greenhouse modules for space and at optimizing lighting for plant growth, bemoaned the failure of the treadmill. She also talked about doing yoga and undertaking other fitness programs while in the habitat.
Again, it might sound trivial to some, but crew fitness would be a high priority in any Mars habitat. Who knows what effects Mars would exact on the human body designed for life on Earth?