TECH

Mars HI-SEAS Simulation Habitat Is Futuristic, Cool And Roomy

24/10/2014 10:21 BST | Updated 24/10/2014 14:59 BST

This could be the first real look at an actual Mars habitat.

And as maybe-deep-space-death-traps go, it's pretty spacious:

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Unfortunately this is not a home actually destined to go to Mars. In fact it is used by the long-term 'HI-SEAS' project, which over the last few years has attempted to simulate the challenges, living conditions and science that would be done if an actual mission to the Red Planet gets off the ground. Literally.

We've written about HI-SEAS before - they recently completed one four-month stint on the 'planet' (actually a mountain in Hawaii) and are gearing up for another NASA-co-organised jaunt next year.

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Still the habitat is pretty intricate - and the mission itself has a number of neat aspects which try to make it as realistic as possible.

  • The crew communicates with the outside world through special NASA-issued email addresses, complete with a realistic 24-minute delay
  • The habitat is powered by solar panels, with a backup hydrogen fuel cell system
  • A 3D printer is on board the hab, used by the crew to make anything they 'forget' back on Earth
  • There are six small bedrooms, workout areas and composing toilets
  • The 1,000-square-foot dome is designed to have high ceilings and not negatively impact the crew psychologically

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At the end of the last mission, US Air Force Major Casey Stedman, commander for HI-SEAS, said "I haven’t seen a tree, smelled the rain, heard a bird, or felt wind on my skin in four months".

"You don’t really think about the tactile feedback you get from biting into crisp lettuce and a juicy hamburger, but that’s the one thing that’s lacking here," said the mission's chief technologist Ross Lockwood.

"We’ve basically been subsisting on mush. Flavorful mush, but mush nonetheless. That’s actually one of my favorite parts of Instagram during the mission: all those pictures of food are helping me get through."