A mission to Mars is quite different from a trip on the International Space Station, or even the Moon. People are far more isolated, and staying healthy is tricky, since there are only certain foods that can survive the entire trip to, during, and from Mars, and initial missions will likely not have the means to grow food on their own. In order to examine how to sustain living on such foods, NASA established a mock test mission on Hawaii that examined how astronauts would need to fare in the isolated environment of Mars. Today, the astronauts ended the four-month mission, with results to follow shortly.
We have landed. #hiseas Mission 1 is officially over.— Angelo Vermeulen (@angelovermeulen) August 13, 2013
The NASA mission, called the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), took place in a lava field on Mauna Loa, located on the island of Hawaii. The purpose of the mission was to examine what foods could be useful on a trip to Mars. The six scientists who suited up for the text stayed in a domed structure likely to be similar to what astronauts will face in the coming decades on Mars missions, only venturing out once a week in spacesuits in mock surveys, collecting soil samples and exploring the terrain.
During the "mission," the HI-SEAS scientists ate a variety of instant foods, and cooked for themselves on occasion. The ingredients they had to cook with varied based on each item's shelf life, and included rice, hot sauce and spice, red wine, canned meats, dried ruts and vegetables, and nuts. Each food was tested to see not only if they would last the length of time necessary to survive the Mars trip. Some green foods were also grown and harvested in the space provided. NASA also examined the scientists' state of being, examining moods, health, and behavior over the course of 118 days. Throughout the mission, the team of HI-SEAS scientists their studies, as well as various recipes they made using the ingredients on hand.
With the end of the first HI-SEAS mission, NASA will use the information to put into use in planning their long-distance Mars missions, which they intend to start by some time in the 2030s. Already, other NASA projects are in place to help feed the astronauts, including making a "3D pizza printer" to create foods based on current ingredients. More missions involving the HI-SEAS area will likely happen over the next several years.