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NASA Project In Hawaii Simulates 1-Year Mars Mission


Now let's talk about a part of the Earth's surface that is currently playing the role of Mars. It's a dusty, rocky slope of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano.

KIM BINSTED: It looks just like the pictures that are coming back from the rovers on the surface of Mars.


This is not the filming of "The Martian." University of Hawaii professor Kim Binsted is performing some real science here. She's running a series of NASA-funded projects trying to understand how humans would survive on Mars. Turns out Hawaii was the perfect place to do that.

MONTAGNE: Six people there are simulating life on Mars for a year, and they've just crossed the halfway point. Just as they might have to do on Mars, they are living in an isolated solar-powered dome habitat while eating freeze-dried food. Anytime they leave, they must act like it's Mars.

BINSTED: They have to put on their spacesuits. They need to submit a plan 24 hours in advance. They need to stay in the airlock for a certain period of time before they go outside.

INSKEEP: And all the while, Binsted studies the crew's cohesion and performance.

BINSTED: If the human part of that system fails, it's just as catastrophic as if a rocket blows up. So we're trying to make sure that the human parts of that system are robust and resilient enough to make the journey there and back again.

MONTAGNE: And NASA has said it hopes to be able to send humans to the real Red Planet by the 2030s. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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