A year on Mars on Mauna Loa

German physicist and engineer Christiane Heinicke describes her one year stay with five other people in the HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) habitat by the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii (see previous posts here about HI-SEAS): My Year on “Mars” – Scientific American

Cut off from civilization, we were dependent on ourselves and on each other. We had to perform any work that needed doing and fix anything that broke. All we had was the material contained in the storage unit dubbed the “sea can.” The nearest supermarket was months away. We received news “from Earth” electronically – with a 20-minute delay. That is about how long it takes for signals to travel the maximum distance of 240 million miles between the two planets.

To be honest, it took weeks for me to realize just what I had gotten into. 

She describes various difficulties and challenges that arose during the analog Mars mission but none were so terrible that they would discourage her from going to the Red Planet if she had the opportunity:

Studies such as HI-SEAS are designed to increase the chances that the first Mars crew will survive, and to create a setting in which its members can concentrate on seeking out signs of life rather than squandering their energies in conflicts and petty competition.

If it were possible for me to fly to Mars today, I wouldn’t hesitate – provided that I got along well with the crew and knew that I would get back in one piece. My year-long experience gave me a good understanding of the negative aspects of life away from Earth, and I know that I have what it takes. While my time on our Hawaiian Mars did not transform me into a completely new person, I have become much calmer in the face of enormous psychological stress. It now takes a lot to make me lose my equilibrium. For the privilege of delving into the secrets of an alien planet I would gladly forgo fresh raspberries for a few years.



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