Sunday, September 17, 2017 the Hi-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) V mission ended. It’s a simulation of a Mars mission conducted on the slopes of the volcano Mauna Loa. Six people spent 8 months in conditions similar to those the astronauts would face on Mars with a dome-shaped habitat as their home.
This is the fifth Hi-SEAS mission funded by NASA and run by the University of Hawaii after the first that lasted four months between April and August 2013, the second that lasted 120 days between March 2014 and July 2014, the third that lasted eight months between October 2014 and June 2015 and the fourth, that lasted one year. the crew of the Hi-SEAS V mission was composed of: Brian Ramos, Laura Lark, Ansley Barnard, Samuel Payler, Joshua Ehrlich e James Bevington (from left to right in the picture).
The Hi-SEAS V mission was a little shorter than the previous one, having started on January 19, 2017 for a period of eight months. The operations have remained the same reproducing the activities that one day the astronauts could accomplish while remaining isolated from the outside world. The six researchers spent the last eight months mostly in their habitat, thus remaining almost always together with all the consequences of the case.
The psychological consequences of such a long coexistence are those most carefully studied in the Hi-SEAS missions. For this reason, the six researchers had to keep on answering a number of questions that allowed to continue evaluating their status, even though all communications took place with a 20-minute delay as the ones with a real crew on Mars would be to keep the realism.
Communication delays are one of the most insulating factors for Hi-SEAS missions participants and would be for astronauts in deep space missions, far away enough for light to take at least a number of minutes to cover the distance between Earth and Mars or the spaceship. The participants can communicate comfortably only among them so it’s crucial that there’s cohesion in the group.
The six researchers who participated in the Hi-SEAS V mission will now be subjected to further physical and psychological testing to gain more data on the consequences of their long isolation and their return to normality. In fact, this type of research doesn’t end with the end of the experiment but continues, so the results will only be available some time in the future. Meanwhile, the Hi-SEAS VI mission is already scheduled for 2018 and will also lasts 8 months.