NASA will run a new mission in Mauna Ulu, Hawaii, to simulate a real life mission to Mars. The mission is called the BASALT Mission (Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains), and it has the objective of creating new protocols to collect and protect biological samples they may find on this other planet.
It will start this week, and researchers will be left there for two weeks more. Communication will be delayed for 5 to 20 minutes as if it were a real life Mars mission. It will also take place in the Snake River Plain in Idaho and astronauts will not be wearing spacesuits. At the same time, a “mission control,” as reported by KRQE News, will be held at the Kilauea Military Camp, where 20 UH-Hilo students will be attending.
John Hamilton, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii at Hilo told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, as reported by CsMonitor, that their biggest concern is that the field might have living bacteria that could lead to contamination. For this, NASA has developed a light beam that detects bio-signals with any sign of pollution in them. It is called the Bio-Indicator Lidar Instrument.
The reason behind doing this experiment in the Hawaiian volcanoes is that they are very similar to the superficial structure of Mars. They are rocks mostly of basalt, the same mineral that covers Mars’ surface. It is the greatest imitation of the planet inside the Earth.
Other NASA missions to a successful trip to Mars
NASA has been doing other experiments as well since they want to be the best prepared possible when they go to Mars. It has made the HI-SEAS project, in which astronauts had to be isolated for a year to test their mental limits. It was done in the Mauna Loa volcano.
The psychologist from the University of Minnesota, Gloria Leon, stated, reported by CsMonitor, that solitary confinement has an adverse impact on human health. They start missing daily life feelings such as the smell of cookies or the sounds of other people’s laughter. This could actually drive the person insane.
Another mission is the NEEMO, or the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operation 21, in which they studied geological factors like the stimulation of antigravity. The experiment consisted in diving into the ocean off the Florida coast like they were in space.
All these experiments lead to different conclusions that NASA will take into consideration to prepare for the future. They cannot simulate all the factors that will be present on Mars, but they can come close and have a more accurate decision when choosing the crew for the mission and its maintenance.