Why 6 people have spent nearly 8 months locked inside a dome on top of a volcano
Right now, six people are living inside a 1200 square foot dome on top of a volcano on the Island of Hawaii.
The spot is in the middle of nowhere, cut off from civilization:
These people are not part of a cult and they don't believe the apocalypse is looming. They're part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) research experiment. It's led by scientists at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and it's all part of the plan to get humans to Mars.
An important step in making humans on Mars a reality is figuring out how people will handle a long-term space mission, especially when they're stuck with the same people in close quarters for a long period of time. People on Mars will also experience a 20-minute communication delay with Earth.
"This research is gaining insights into psychological, social, and biological challenges of isolation and confinement," according to the HI-SEAS website.
Isolation and confinement will be unavoidable on the journey to Mars - a trip that will take at least six months.So back in October 15, 2014, six volunteer "crew members" said goodbye to the outside world and started a simulated mission to Mars to find out how well they could cope. These six people were chosen from a pool of 700 applicants. Several are engineers, and all of them are aspiring astronauts.
They're living on rationed food and water, with shower time limits and mandatory exercise programs. They're also each conducting their own mini research project while in the dome. Some are also blogging and describing their experience. But they themselves are the real experiment.
Passing the time
What do you do for fun when you're locked inside a dome with the same other five people for months?
You play board games:
You do some experimental cooking:
You watch space-themed movies like Star Wars:
And do lots of P90X:
The dormant volcano can almost pass as a Martian mountain.
The mission is coming to a close soon, and the crew will emerge on June 13.
After that much time locked up with the same people, they'll probably come out the best of friends or the worst of enemies.