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posted by Dopefish on Friday April 04 2014, @06:28PM   Printer-friendly
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."

 
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  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Friday April 04 2014, @07:30PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Friday April 04 2014, @07:30PM (#26343)

    Both cases have a major flaw: In case of emergency, you someone can open the door.
    Even a nuclear sub, Apollo 13, or the space station crew can get home in a known amount of time.

    The closest thing to a trip to Mars ever conducted was the Chilean miners, who weren't sure they could get out at all, and certainly couldn't change the schedule in an emergency.

    That's the real "now you're trapped" stress. Closing a door doesn't emulate the worst part of the Mars trip.

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by tftp on Friday April 04 2014, @07:50PM

    by tftp (806) on Friday April 04 2014, @07:50PM (#26349) Homepage

    That's the real "now you're trapped" stress. Closing a door doesn't emulate the worst part of the Mars trip.

    Then the experiment should be done on the bottom of the ocean. Make a sturdy habitat with an escape chamber, load the people in, and drop it off at a random location in the ocean. The escape chamber may be floated up only after several months under water (a reliable interlock must be made.)

    The chamber contains a recorder that documents everything that happens inside the main habitat, in case none of the test subjects make it into the escape chamber after their time on the bottom. The escape chamber will float automatically after another month in the "ready to depart" state.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05 2014, @01:16AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05 2014, @01:16AM (#26481)

      may be floated up only after several months

      What if one of the participants has a severe injury or discovers a completely treatable condition before your arbitrary cutoff like the physician at the Antarctic outpost? [google.com]

      How about postponing any melodrama and only going to ridiculous extremes when it can't possibly be avoided?

      -- gewg_

      • (Score: 1) by tftp on Saturday April 05 2014, @06:39AM

        by tftp (806) on Saturday April 05 2014, @06:39AM (#26564) Homepage

        How about postponing any melodrama and only going to ridiculous extremes when it can't possibly be avoided?

        That's what they are doing right now. And it will be not very usable. Might just as well skip the whole thing. If a few people are afraid to sit for a few months in true isolation, they are not good candidates for a trip that will take a couple of years as a minimum. This stuff is dangerous. Perhaps spaceflight should be outlawed "for health and safety," as they say in UK. It's clearly not as safe as sleeping in bed on Earth.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bill_mcgonigle on Friday April 04 2014, @08:08PM

    by bill_mcgonigle (1105) on Friday April 04 2014, @08:08PM (#26356)

    The closest thing to a trip to Mars ever conducted was the Chilean miners, who weren't sure they could get out at all, and certainly couldn't change the schedule in an emergency.

    Pretty much every expedition to explore the world in a sailing vessel came with a strong likelihood of a one-way-trip and those have been going on for thousands of years. Columbus's first voyage took about two months.

    I know a guy who worked for a long time doing sea floor mapping (it's been several decades and he's long since retired, so whatevs). Supposedly this came about in response to the submarines that never came back from their long-term deep water expeditions. Strict radio silence, so you know that they're not coming back only after a long time of not hearing from them.

    NASA's problem really isn't so different, though I do think that they might try to send people in a vessel sub-par to a submarine [pni] and that would be a mistake. SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy will be able to lift enough gear to assemble a good vessel in orbit. If I were NASA, I'd hold out for a rotational ship and make a big circus about doing it.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Friday April 04 2014, @08:14PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday April 04 2014, @08:14PM (#26359)

    Worst part is a matter of perspective, but the time duration is a serious factor.

    I'm not exactly anti-social, but I can go for what seems like quite a while without missing chatting with the co-workers.... however, I have done a bit of solo travel overseas, and after about 3 days of not having someone to "say hi" to, I undergo a distinct personality shift toward being more outgoing. When I'm travelling with friend(s), it doesn't happen. It's probably biochemically based, and these kinds of things are what the researchers are hoping to trigger.

    Also, this is the kind of study that needs to be repeated, alot, because of variability among individuals and groups.

    --
    John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05 2014, @01:27AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05 2014, @01:27AM (#26485)

      Definitions:
      Social: You are invited and you go to the party
      Asocial (like asynchronous or asymmetrical): You are invited to the party but you don't go
      Anti-social: You are NOT invited to the party but you go anyway
      Really Anti-social: You go to the party and try to kill everyone there

      -- gewg_