In a camping trip, you experience living in a world where there is no access to human luxuries like technology, the comfort of sleeping on your own bed and the blocks-away convenience store you can always run to, even in the middle of the night.
Six people with varying nationalities and professions have gone on a different kind of camping trip to ready themselves for a journey to a world outside our world. There aren't any bugs or dangerous animals lurking around, but there's also little sign of Earthly life and vegetation where they set camp.
NASA has just started its year-long experiment in a simulation of life on Mars. The six crew members - including a German physicist, a French astrobiologist and four Americans, a pilot, a soil scientist, an architect and a doctor/journalist - isolated themselves inside a dome situated somewhere along the barren slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. At 3:00 p.m. Hawaii time (1:00 GMT Saturday), the team shut themselves from the world and will remain in the dome for a whole 12 months.
The dome is 36 feet in diameter, and 20 feet in height. The inside is divided into small rooms, with just enough space for a sleeping cot and a desk. The men and women are supplied with food like canned tuna and powdered cheese, and will only be allowed to go outside when dressed in a spacesuit. Internet access is limited.
This 12-month experiment is part of a program called Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) launched by NASA to study how a scenario like this plays out on Earth. It follows two earlier co-habitation experiments that went on for four and eight months. The eight-month experiment ended earlier this year. By the 2030s, the US space agency hopes to be able to apply the analysis of these simulation experiments to actual journeys to the Mars.
The first experiment, for example, looked at cooking on the Red Planet. In this latest experiment, architect Tristan Bassingthwaighte said he hopes to learn a lot, specifically architectural methods that may be used to create a more habitable environment.