from the at-least-women-will-live-on-venus dept.
When astronauts first began flying in space, NASA worried about "space madness," a mental malady they thought might arise from humans experiencing microgravity and claustrophobic isolation inside of a cramped spacecraft high above the Earth. Now Megan Garber writes in The Atlantic that NASA is hoping to find out what life on Mars does to the human emotional state by putting three men and three women in a 1,000-square-foot habitat shaped like a dome for four months. The volunteers in the second HI-SEAS mission a purposely tiny group selected out of a group of 700 applicants include, among others, a neuropsychologist, an aerospace engineer, and an Air Force veteran who is studying human factors in aviation. "We're going to stress them," says Kim Binsted, the project's principal investigator. "That's the nature of the study."
That test involves isolating the crew in the same way they'd be isolated on Mars. The only communication they'll be allowed with the outside world-that is to say, with their family and friends-will be conducted through email. (And that will be given an artificial delay of 20 minutes to simulate the lag involved in Mars-to-Earth communications.) If that doesn't seem too stressful, here's another source of stress: Each mission member will get only eight minutes of shower time ... per week. The stress will be compounded by the fact that the only time the crew will be able to leave their habitat-yurt is when they're wearing puffy, insulated uniforms that simulate space suits in the Hawaiian heat. Throughout the mission, researchers will be testing the subjects' moods and the changes they exhibit in their relationships with each other. They'll also be examining the crew members' cognitive skills, seeing whether-and how-they change as the experiment wears on. Binsted says the mission has gotten the attention of the TV world, but don't expect to see much inside-the-dome footage. "You wouldn't believe the number of producers who called us," says Binsted. "Fortunately, we're not ethically allowed to subject our crew to that kind of thing."