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Big Island ‘Hab-inauts’ Return From ‘Mission to Mars’

September 19, 2016, 1:55 PM HST (Updated September 19, 2016, 2:06 PM)
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Six scientists have emerged from a 1,000-square-foot dome on Mauna Loa, where they spent the past year simulating the first human habitat on Mars.

The crew members—with backgrounds ranging from astrobiology to medicine and even space architecture—had not breathed fresh air in a year. They were only able to go outside a few times a month, in full space suits, and they could shower for only six minutes every week.

All of their communications were on a 20-minute delay, making email the only viable means to interface with the rest of the world.

The NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project on Mauna Loa on the Big Island.

The NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project on Mauna Loa on the Big Island.

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Throughout the yearlong mission, which ended on Aug. 28, the six crew members have captured their daily experiences on camera for the documentary Red Heaven. The film will tell the story of the challenges and changes they’ve endured living life on simulated Mars, and it strives to ask deeper questions about humanity’s future and what it means to become a multi-planetary species.

Directors Katherine Gorringe and Lauren DeFilippo are running a Kickstarter to fund editing of this footage. They raised raised $50,247 with 545 backers as of Sept. 19, surpassing their $40,000 goal.

The rewards for pledges include the “Bill Nye Digital Bundle”—one of the rewards from The Bill Nye Film, as well as a Skype call with one of the “hab-inauts” and tickets to the film’s premiere.

The NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project on Mauna Loa on the Big Island.

Crew Commander Carmel Johnston. The NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project on Mauna Loa on the Big Island.

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The film is co-produced by Structure Film’s David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg, the award-winning directors behind the documentary about Bill Nye The Science Guy— the most-backed documentary of all time on Kickstarter, currently in post-production.

Gorringe and DeFilippo, who met as graduate film students at Stanford University, became fascinated with the futuristic and technology-driven way of life in Silicon Valley.

“We realized the worlds of our favorite science fiction films were becoming closer to our reality, and we kept wondering, why do we dream of going to Mars?” they asked. “More importantly, what will that future be like for human beings?”

This mission is the longest study of its kind ever conducted on US soil. The NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project places would-be astronauts in a simulated Mars habitat for long durations and collects data on the crew to study the social effects of isolation. Their findings will be used at NASA to determine the conditions for future manned Mars missions.

EVA_01

The NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project on Mauna Loa on the Big Island.

Spending 12 months in a confined space with five other people certainly has its challenges, and the six crew members found solace in EVAs or Extravehicular Activities, where they could explore volcanic caverns and perform geological research. They also released stress by cooking creatively with the freeze-dried options available to them, and exercising—two crew members ran a marathon while inside the dome.

The directors have two clear goals for their project: first and foremost, they want to give viewers a raw and intimate look into what life on Mars might really be like; secondly, they hope to inspire conversation about the stories we tell about the future, and how these tales shape what future becomes a reality.

“Red Heaven” is slated to premiere in 2018. Click here to donate to the “Red Heaven” Kickstarter or for more information.

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