Testing equipment, procedures and even human resilience for future missions to faraway planets requires inventiveness. Volunteer astronauts can spend time in hyperbaric chambers, rollercoaster aircraft, an isolated base in Antarctica, caves, a sealed mockup spacecraft or even stay in bed, depending on the aspect you want to test and rehearse.
In this picture, scientist Lucie Poulet (right) from the DLR German Aerospace Center is part of a simulated mission to Mars run by the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA.
Little is spared to make the crew of six feel far from home. The small habitat allows only 12 minutes under the shower each week, no fresh food is allowed and communication with friends and family is severely limited – a realistic 20-minute time delay is upheld in all communications with ground control.
Space agencies use simulations like this NASA-sponsored Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue and Simulation to research elements of sending humans into stressful environments. In space, help is far away, sunlight irregular, exercise difficult and social life is limited.
The crew will ‘return to Earth’ on 28 July. During their four months of isolation, Lucie is investigating new lighting systems to grow plants in greenhouses.