Six NASA-backed research subjects who have been cooped up in a Mars-like habitat on a remote Hawaii volcano since January emerged from isolation Sunday. They devoured fresh-picked tropical fruits, vegetables and a fluffy egg strata after eating mostly freeze-dried food during their isolation.
The crew of four men and two women are part of a study designed to better understand the psychological impacts a long-term space mission would have on astronauts.
The data they produced will help NASA select individuals and groups with the right mix of traits to best cope with the stress, isolation and danger of a two-to-three year trip to Mars. The U.S. space agency hopes to send humans to the red planet by the 2030s.
NASA sent six scientists to inhabiting the closet thing to a Martian habitat they could come up with on Earth
The crew was quarantined for eight months on a vast plain below the summit of the Big Island's Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano. After finishing their stint, they feasted on pineapple, mango and papaya.
While isolated, the crew members wore space suits and travelled in teams whenever they left their small dome living structure. They ate mostly freeze-dried or canned food on their simulated voyage to Mars.
All of their communications with the outside world were subjected to a 20-minute delay — the time it takes for signals to get from Mars to Earth. The crew was tasked with conducting geological surveys, mapping studies and maintaining their self-sufficient habitat as if they were actually living on Mars.