With the success of the movie 'The Martian' in mind, I was intrigued to read this article by the doctor of NASA's current Hi-Seas IV Mars simulation mission on Hawaii. Here's an excerpt.
Collaboration is one of the key motivations behind the sMars project: to find out what people need to live, work and survive together on other planets, and how to give it to them. The idea sounds simple in principle, but is difficult in practice. To work together effectively, people need more than just food, water and energy. Shared mission goals help, but they still aren’t enough to keep people happy for months on end. So what is enough? The belief – the hope – is that there’s a recipe for making it work: that the right people, given the right tools, can live together in a small space under stressful circumstances for years and continue to perform at near-peak levels, the way that astronauts do when in low-Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station. Our jobs as simulated astronauts is to test out potential ingredients for that recipe.
What this means is that life up here is eclectic, experimental, and occasionally unpredictable. There are scheduled tasks, unscheduled time for play and rest, experimental communication methods, virtual-reality trips to beaches and forests on Earth, and a lot of negotiation among the crew. Moving into the dome is a bit like suddenly having five spouses. You rapidly discover that what’s clean, polite, or acceptable to you won’t necessarily be clean, polite, or acceptable to someone else. Since we’re all here for the long haul – breaking up is not an option during a space mission – we’ve each had to adapt in five different directions at once as quickly as possible, while also doing our jobs.
Learning how to do that has been the most challenging part of the adventure.
There's much more at the link.
I was particularly struck by the fact that, for all the hi-tech nature of the mission, the distance from Earth will cut off those involved from almost any possibility of assistance. Even communication will be delayed for twenty minutes in each direction due to light speed lag. The astronauts will essentially be forced to rely on their own devices. For example, if someone develops a medical problem that requires major surgery, they'll have to be able to do it themselves . . . or watch their colleague die. There's no backup, no alternative solution.