This February was the sixth iteration of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS. Since 2013, small groups of people have made this drive (up the Northern slope of Mauna Loa) and moved into the dome, 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.
HI-SEAS is a social experiment, and the participants are the lab rats. They wear devices to track their vitals, movements, and sleep, answer countless questionnaires about their own behavior and their interactions with others, and journal several times a week about their feelings. The durations have varied, from four months to a full year, and participants come from all over the world and different fields.
However, on February 19th, the most recent experiment came to an abrupt end. The batteries powered by a solar array for the habitat lost power due to lingering clouds over the volcano. Two crew members donned their space suits, went outside, and started a backup propane generator while the two other crew members flipped a switch on a circuit breaker inside the habitat.
When the suited-up crew members returned to the habitat, a crew member was typing furiously at a computer. The other looked stricken and pale. They said they didn’t feel well. They said they had sustained an electric shock.
It’s a reminder that even small tasks can become matters of life and death. Fortunately for this team, help was just a short drive away. Learn about the HI-SEAS program, previous missions and what went wrong during Mission Six at The Atantic via Get Pocket.