Science | September 15, 2017 5:44 pm

NASA-Backed Research Subjects to Emerge After 8 Months of Isolation

The subjects were living on a 'Mars-like habitat.'

Six NASA-backed research subjects are about to emerge from their Mars-like habitat on Sunday and return to civilization after eight months of isolation. The subjects were living on a remote Hawaii volcano, reports the Associated Press.

What would you do after eight months of isolation? The four men and two women plan on feasting on some fresh fruit and homemade egg strata cooked by the project’s lead scientist.

The six subjects were part of a study designed to understand better the psychological effects astronauts would face on a long-term manned mission to space. The crew was quarantined below the summit of the world’s largest active volcano since January. They had limited communication with the outside world, and everything had a 20-minute delay because that is how long it takes signals to get from Mars to Earth.

The data the crew provides will help NASA pick crew that will have a better chance of doing well during a two-to-three year Mars expedition, writes AP. NASA wants to send people to Mars by 2030.

Data was collected through specially-designed sensors that gauged their moods and proximity to other people in the space — which by the way, was only 1,200 square feet. The devices monitored things like voice levels and could tell if people were avoiding one another or arguing.

Sounds intense, right? When the crew got too overwhelmed living in such proximity to each other, they could use virtual reality devices and pretend to be on a beach or really, anywhere but on that volcano.

The project’s lead investigator, University of Hawaii professor Kim Binsted, also told AP that each participant kept written logs about how they were feeling.

This was the fifth mission out of a series of six. NASA has dedicated about $2.5 million to the studies at the University of Hawaii facility called the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS, reports AP. 

The crew lived in a vinyl-covered shelter which was about the size of a small, two-bedroom home, writes AP. They had to share one shower and had composting toilets. Bundles of food and supplies were dropped off, but the team members were not allowed to get them, a robot did.

The university is starting to plan Mission 6, the final study funded by NASA.