Friday, June 22, 2018

"When a Mars Simulation Goes Wrong"

For the last five years, small groups of people have made this drive and moved into the dome [in Hawaii], known as a habitat. Their job is to pretend that they really are on Mars, and then spend months living like it. The goal, for the researchers who send them there, is to figure out how human beings would do on a mission to the real thing.

In February of this year, the latest batch of pioneers, a crew of four, made the journey up the mountain. They settled in for an eight-month stay. Four days later, one of them was taken away on a stretcher and hospitalized.

The remaining crew members were evacuated by mission support. All four eventually returned to the habitat, not to continue their mission, but to pack up their stuff. Their simulation was over for good.


Binsted, the principal investigator, said she could not discuss the specifics of the incident until the institutional review boards, one at the University of Hawaii and one at nasa, concluded their investigations and issued reports and recommendations.


Shiro said one of his gut feelings kicked in during the fieldwork training for mission six. “There was this one person who was not as comfortable in the field,” he said. “That’s the sort of thing you don’t know until you get out there. Still did it, did all the training, a little slower, but did it all. But when the incident happened that ultimately led to the cancelation of the mission, that’s the person who quit. And it was not a surprise to any of us because we said, yeah, you know, she was a little more timid out there.”