Preparing for the journey to Mars

Tom Kizzia, for The New Yorker:

Beyond a rocky parapet near the eight-thousand-foot elevation, a two-story white vinyl geodesic dome came into view, perched on the mountainside like a gigantic golf ball sliced high into the rocks from a Kona resort. Multicolored lava fields fell toward the valley, where a thread of highway could barely be seen. Binsted asked me to whisper. Inside the dome, six volunteers were mimicking the life of astronauts on Mars for a NASA-funded test of team dynamics in space. They had been in the dome since October and would remain until June; at the moment, they were just a few days away from setting a North American record for a study of the effects of isolation and confinement.

Binsted wore a red polo shirt with the project’s logo: HI-SEAS, for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. Her short brown hair was barely cinched in a ponytail. As the principal investigator for the study, which is being run by the University of Hawaii, she had recruited and trained three men and three women, ranging in age from twenty-six to thirty-eight, preparing them for the austerities of travel to another planet.

I’ve always maintained that I would do very well in isolation. (In fact, I think I’d do even better on a solo mission than with crewmates, but maybe that’s not so unusual.) But, unlike stranded seal hunting ships of yore, the first Mars-bound crew will be going into it with eyes wide open, and I think that will make all the difference as far as their overall outlook. But me, all I’d need is workout gear and a few iPad apps.