Six scientists who were living under a dome on the slopes of a dormant Hawaii volcano for eight months to simulate life on Mars have emerged from isolation.
The crew stepped outside the dome that’s 8,000 feet up the slopes of Mauna Loa to feel fresh air on their skin. It was the first time they left without donning a spacesuit.
The scientists are part of a human performance study funded by NASA that tracked how they worked together as a team. They have been monitored by surveillance cameras, body-movement trackers and electronic surveys.
Crew member Jocelyn Dunn said it was awesome to feel the sensation of wind on her skin. “When we first walked out the door, it was scary not to have a suit on,” said Dunn, 27, a doctoral candidate at Purdue University.
The dome’s volcanic location, silence and its simulated airlock seal provided an atmosphere similar to space.
Tracking the crew members’ emotions and performance in the isolated environment could help ground crews during future missions to determine if a crew member is becoming depressed or if the team is having communication problems.
“Astronauts are very stoic people, very levelheaded, and there’s a certain hesitancy to report problems,” said University of Hawaii professor Kim Binsted, principal investigator. “So this is a way for people on the ground to detect cohesion-related problems before they become a real issue.”