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NASA Isolates Six Scientists in Dome Atop Hawaiian Mountain for a Year

posted: 08/31/15
by: Danny Clemens
NASA HI-SEAS Dome
HI-SEAS via NASA

For the next year, six scientists will remain isolated in a small, solar-powered dome atop Hawaii's Mauna Loa.

They're not being quarantined to prevent the spread of an infectious disease; rather, this year-long sojourn is the next step in NASA's Journey to Mars. The agency-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission aims to simulate a trip to Mars, affording University of Hawaii researchers the opportunity to investigate the effects of extended isolation on the human psyche.

"The crew will be monitored using cameras, body movement trackers, electronic surveys, and other methods. UH Manoa researchers and their collaborators will be studying the group's cohesion over time, gathering data on a wide range of cognitive, social and emotional factors that may impact team performance," The University of Hawaii explains in a news release.

The team's dome sits approximately 8,000 feet above sea level. In a press release from a previous HI-SEAS mission, NASA explained that the mountain's peak is "one of the few places on Earth that can offer researchers few of the signs of their home planet without having to leave Earth."

Should they decide to leave exit the dome, team members will have to don a spacesuit to explore the barren volcanic landscape.

UH-Manoa, which is executing the mission, has already coordinated three, shorter-duration isolation experiments, the most recent of which ended earlier this summer. Experts estimate that a complete mission from Earth to Mars and back could last up to three years.

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