After a year of living in near isolation, a crew of six scientists currently on an intense Mars simulation mission in Hawaii will soon end their research.
As of writing, the six experts are housed in a dome on Mauna Loa, one of five volcanoes in Hawaii. The ongoing mission is part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation or Hi-Seas.
The team, funded by NASA through the University of Hawaii, is testing out how humans would fare on Mars-like conditions.
Researchers can come out and go outside only in spacesuits, according to The Hawaii Tribune-Herald. They are managing limited resources while conducting studies and working to prevent personal conflicts.
However, communication is delayed by 20 minutes — the average length it would take to relay messages on the red planet.
The project's principal investigator, Kim Binsted, says the simulation is the second-longest of its kind after a Russian mission that lasted for 520 days.
Binsted says that as far as they can tell, the six-member crew is doing well. Past simulations in the dome in Mauna Loa have gone on for four to eight months.
Simulations on the volcano are ideal because Mauna Loa's soil is similar to Martian conditions. Researchers say the high elevation in the area means that no plant can almost grow and survive.
As the research ends on Aug. 28, the six-member crew shall have access to fresh produce and food that were not available for them in the Mauna Loa dome.
Binsted says the crew is clamoring to get into the ocean.
"I think they will enjoy having a beer as well," says Binsted.
The simulation has been the fourth and longest. Volunteers from Germany, United States and France have joined the crew, including an astronomer, a physicist, an astrobiologist and a soil scientist. The crew has survived on freeze-dried food for months.
In January 2017, an eight-month Mars simulation will begin.
Unique Voice App
As mentioned above, communications for the Hi-Seas crew is delayed by 20 minutes. In January 2015, Tech Times examined the voice app that crew members and their family are using to keep in touch as the months went by.
Known as Voxer, the voice-messaging app was released seven years ago, although its features had to be modified. Developers of the app have since then teamed up with NASA for the Mars simulation.
Irv Remedios, president of Voxer, said when a message is sent, it has to be queued, and then transmitted and heard after 20 minutes.
"And the reverse also has to happen," Remedios added.