[00:00.00]Research subjects who have lived with limited human contact since January recently completed an experiment.
[00:11.18]The six, four men and two women, lived near the top of a volcano on the Pacific island of Hawaii.
[00:20.41]They agreed to stay in a small, restricted area as part of a study to learn about the mental and emotional effects of a long term space mission.
[00:35.38]The six people lived and acted much like astronauts would on an eight-month long visit to the planet Mars.
[00:45.71]The American space agency NASA provided money for the experiment.
[00:52.56]Information gathered in the study will help NASA choose individuals and groups with the right qualities for a trip to Mars.
[01:04.50]Individuals who are able to deal with long-term space travel need to have special qualities or traits.
[01:15.39]They need to be able to deal well with isolation, pressure and danger for up to three years on a trip that would take them far from Earth.
[01:29.33]The six research subjects were isolated from other people on a large flat plain near the top of Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano.
[01:43.72]The area is about 2,400 meters above sea level and has thin, dry air.
[01:55.16]During the experiment, the subjects wore space suits like those worn by astronauts and traveled in teams whenever leaving their living structure.
[02:09.60]Researchers called the dome-shaped living space a habitat.
[02:15.21]It is about the size of a small house.
[02:19.08]The kinds of foods available to the research subjects were limited.
[02:25.41]They ate mostly freeze-dried or canned food during the experiment.
[02:31.79]All communications between the “crew members” and outsiders were given a 20-minute delay, increasing the sense of isolation.
[02:44.89]Twenty-minutes is the time it takes a radio signal to travel from Mars to Earth.
[02:53.17]The mission was the fifth in a series of six NASA-financed studies at the University of Hawaii habitat.
[03:03.94]It is called the Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS.
[03:12.81]Laura Lark was the team’s information technology specialist.
[03:19.54]She thinks a manned flight to Mars is a reasonable goal for NASA.
[03:25.53]Lark described the project in a video message recorded in the dome.
[03:33.17]“There are certainly human factors to be figured out, that’s part of what HI-SEAS is for,” she said.
[03:42.72]“But I think that overcoming those challenges is just a matter of effort. We are absolutely capable of it.”
[03:52.00]In the experiment, researchers used games to study human behavior.
[03:58.14]The crew members played games designed to measure their ability to work together.
[04:05.49]Games also helped measure their ability to deal with pressure or stress.
[04:12.47]The crew members also kept documentation of how they were feeling.
[04:19.15]In addition to activities, members of the team wore sensors that measured voice levels and how near they were to others in the living space.
[04:32.34]Kim Binsted, a professor at the University of Hawaii, was one the lead investigators in the study.
[04:42.05]She said the sensors could record if people were avoiding one another or if they were close to each other in an argument.
[04:52.95]“We’ve learned, for one thing, that conflict, even in the best of teams, is going to arise,” Binsted said.
[05:02.55]“So what’s really important is to have a crew that, both as individuals and a group, is really resilient, is able to look at that conflict and come back from it.”
[05:18.60]Another part of the study was to test ways to help the crew members coped with stress.
[05:26.88]When they felt helpless, they could use what the researchers called virtual reality devices.
[05:35.20]These could show the team members images of a seaside getaway or something else.
[05:42.97]Other countries have performed studies on the effects of long-term space flight.
[05:50.38]The researchers in Hawaii, however, say their project provides an environment most like Mars.
[05:59.02]The area on Mauna Loa is covered with hard, red volcanic rock.
[06:04.84]The crew-members were required to carry out studies of the rocky surface, make maps and care for their habitat.
[06:15.22]The living space had a laboratory, cooking area and bedrooms with little room for anything else.
[06:24.24]After the experiment was finished, food was the first thing on the mind of the six astronauts.
[06:32.64]They gladly ate a feast of tropical fruit.
[06:37.85]I’m Mario Ritter.