End of voy­age

The Star Malaysia - - Nation -

Re­search space­craft Cassini makes death plunge to pre­vent dam­age to Saturn.

HONOLULU: Af­ter eight months of liv­ing in iso­la­tion on a re­mote Hawaii volcano, six Nasa-backed re­search sub­jects will emerge from their Mars-like habi­tat and re­turn to civil­i­sa­tion.

Their first or­der of busi­ness af­ter sub­sist­ing on mostly freeze-dried and canned food: Feast on fresh­picked pineap­ple, pa­paya, mango, lo­cally grown veg­eta­bles and a fluffy, home­made egg strata cooked by their project’s lead sci­en­tist.

The crew of four men and two women were quar­an­tined on a vast plain be­low the sum­mit of the world’s largest ac­tive volcano in Jan­uary. 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.

They are part of a study de­signed to bet­ter un­der­stand the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects that a long-term manned mis­sion to space would have on as­tro­nauts.

The data they gath­ered will help Nasa bet­ter pick crews that have cer­tain traits and a bet­ter chance of do­ing well dur­ing a two- to three­year Mars ex­pe­di­tion.

The space agency hopes to send hu­mans to the red planet by the 2030s.

The Hawaii team wore spe­cially de­signed sen­sors to gauge their moods and prox­im­ity to other peo­ple in the small 111 sq m dome where they have lived.

The de­vices mon­i­tored, among other things, their voice lev­els and could sense if peo­ple were avoid­ing one an­other. It could also de­tect if they were next to each other and ar­gu­ing.

The crew played games de­signed to mea­sure their com­pat­i­bil­ity and stress lev­els. And when they got over­whelmed by be­ing in such close prox­im­ity to each other, they could use vir­tual re­al­ity de­vices to es­cape to trop­i­cal beaches or other fa­mil­iar land­scapes.

The project’s lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor, Univer­sity of Hawaii pro­fes­sor Kim Bin­sted, said the crew mem­bers also kept writ­ten logs about how they were feel­ing.

“This is our fifth mis­sion, and we have learned a lot over those five mis­sions. We’ve learned, for one thing, that con­flict, even in the best of teams, is go­ing to arise,” Bin­sted said.

“So what’s re­ally im­por­tant is to have a crew that, both as in­di­vid­u­als and a group, is re­ally re­silient, is able to look at that con­flict and come back from it.”

— AP

Far from civ­i­liza­tion: Crew mem­bers per­form­ing tasks around the Hawaii Space Ex­plo­ration Ana­log and Sim­u­la­tion dome on Mauna Loa volcano.

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