A six-strong NASA team ends its simulated year-long isolation in a dome on "Mars." The dome sits near a barren volcano on Hawaii Island.
To simulate the stresses of missions to the Red Planet that could last one to three years, the six-person team will live in close quarters in the 20-foot high and 36-foot diameter dome without fresh air, fresh food or privacy.
The team is comprised of a German physicist, a French astrobiologist, and four Americans - a pilot, an architect, a doctor, and a soil specialist. The crew will each have their own small room, eat only powdered and canned food, have only limited access to the Internet and wear a spacesuit whenever they travel outside the dome.
The NASA team can anticipate some of the problems encountered during a Russian Mars simulation, the longest to date, which ended in Nov 2011. The Mars 500 experiment in Russia was a joint effort by the Russian, Chinese and European space agencies in which a volunteer crew spent a staggering 520 days in isolation to simulate a mission to Mars. The project locked six men in steel tubes for 18 months. The crew - all highly-trained and including a trauma surgeon, a psychologist and a Russian navy diver - developed problems such as depression and loss of alertness related to sleep deprivation.
Mars simulation experiments have been conducted in Antarctica, under the ocean off the coast of Florida and in Russia.
Date written/update: 2015-10-08