In improver to being one of mankind’s most amazing technological feats, space exploration is also a major human biology experiment–how does a person react during the physical and psychological strangeness of a manned space journeying?

For the last four months, six people have been helping to reply this question on a simulated mission to Mars that will conclude this Tuesday. On a desolate gradient of an abandoned quarry in Hawaii, 8,000 feet above sea level, the volunteers have lived in a two-story geodesic dome and put on a total space adjust to venture outside. Their communications accept been express, and their shower fourth dimension rationed. They’ve each spent much of the day conducting their own private “infinite” experiments. But virtually importantly–considering it is the main purpose of the “Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation” (HI-SEAS) report–they’ve been eating food fit for a Mars astronaut.

At some signal during schooling, many kids get the adventure to sample dehydrated infinite food: Simply add water and heat. Information technology doesn’t look that expert. On Mars, because in that location would be gravity, astronauts could actually sometimes melt their own nutrient from “shelf-stable” ingredients, though the preparation and cleanup would take longer than with ready-made fare. The goal of the HI-SEAS written report, run past investigators at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Cornell University, has been to figure out the optimal combination of strategies for nourishing Mars astronauts.

It’s an important question because “menu fatigue” is a real danger on any long and isolated journey, but especially on one as long equally a hypothetical Mars mission. Colorlessness with food can cause a person to consume fewer calories (it’s one reason why Slim Fast diets can work)–and that’s an fifty-fifty bigger trouble in low-gravity because astronauts are already prone to losing os and muscle mass.

The six-member coiffure, all scientific-minded professionals picked from among 700 applicants, kept detailed logs of their food adventures, Kate Greene, a science and applied science journalist on the mission, told
via an email from “Mars.” They filled out smell, taste, and appearance questionnaires for each meal; weighed each food item; tracked water consumption, cooking and cleanup time; and even monitored their sense of smell and nasal passage health to assemble information about whether food colorlessness has physiological effects.

Some other fun attribute was that they besides tested crowdsourced recipes submitted past the public. Each recipe was limited to using the listing of ingredients available. At that place was “Cajun Style Spam Jambalaya” and “Oatmeal Thickened Beefiness Stew” for dinner, and “Blueberry Lemon Cornmeal Pancakes” for breakfast. In that location was even a spicy veggie sushi. The crew will announce the winners this week.

“I’ve enjoyed so many meals here, really,” says Greene, diplomatically. “A quinoa salad, breakfast tacos, borscht, beefiness tagine, and all the breads we make with our breadstuff maker. … We’ve besides had cakes and puddings and pies, grilled cheese sandwiches and soups like seafood chowder.”

A real manned mission to Mars could be a reality within the coming decades. On the 1-yr anniversary of the Curiosity Rover’due south landing on the Crimson Planet last week, NASA’s chief said he believed that man footprints would follow in its path. With today’s technology, it could take as long every bit 300 days to even get there.

Fifty-fifty stocked with the all-time of all possible food pantries, life on a Mars mission would be far from easy. During the 120 days on faux-Mars, Greene missed things you might await, such as walking near outside, biking, and pond. But she also gained a new appreciation for even the almost humdrum trappings of her life on Globe.

“Something I realized about my day-to-day life on Globe is that it’s total of novelty. I see new people all the time and I go to different places,” says Greene. “In the habitat, novelty has been a lot harder to come past, and information technology was subtle when I constitute it–a new recipe, a different manner to arrange the furniture, or someone proverb something completely out of character. When I noticed these slight changes, my joy and excitement was embarrassingly disproportionate.”

On Tuesday, Greene and her five colleagues will emerge into the daylight without a spacesuit for the first time in months. After a media effect and a debrief with the principal researchers on the NASA-funded project, she’ll continue diving into the information she collected during the class of her own study on how to maintain a normal slumber bicycle. Luckily for her, she’ll too get to head domicile.