On Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, six people are living in isolation in Mars-like conditions as part of a NASA-funded behavioral research study by the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The Hi-SEAS mission simulates life on the red planet to study team dynamics and inform how astronauts are selected for long-duration space travel. We chronicle their mission in 360 videos. Life on Mars is a 360 video series created for The New York Times Daily 360.
In the first episode of Life on Mars, we join the Hi-SEAS Mission 5 crew during the training before their eight-month isolation begins. They meet mission support and learn about their new home, a structure they call “the habitat.” During their mission, they will have to wear spacesuits any time they leave the habitat. Their only communication with the outside world will be by email with a 20-minute delay, about the length of time it would take for a transmission from Mars to reach Earth.
On Jan. 19, the scientists celebrate the start of their mission. Their days are filled with geological fieldwork, personal research projects and upkeep of the habitat. In the second episode of Life on Mars we find out how they are settling in — and how they clean the toilet.
The crew has been in isolation for more than four months, the halfway point of their mission. In the third episode of Life on Mars, the crew shows us around the 1,200-square-foot habitat, which is outfitted with more than 150 sensors that collect data on water usage, battery power, carbon dioxide levels and other resources. These are analyzed by researchers and monitored by mission support to assess the well-being of the crew.
In the fifth episode of the series, see how the crew uses virtual reality as a coping mechanism for stress due to isolation. The scenes are meant to relax crew members through exposure to natural and urban environments.
In the fourth episode of this 360-video series, the crew answers select audience questions, which include what they miss most during their eight month isolation, how they resolve conflict and if they still would go to Mars.
In the sixth episode of the series, follow crew member Laura Lark and her husband Walter as they negotiate the challenges of their long-distance marriage. For most of her marriage to Walter, Laura has been on Mars — the volcano in Hawaii that serves as the red planet for the NASA-funded study of isolation.