It seems that being Matt Damon is not that impossible. Well, at least you can find a way to get into one of his character’s shoes. We’re talking about “The Martian”. Remember the story? Remember the potatoes grown up on Mars? Well, that can happen not only in movies. That’s pretty much real and it’s closer than you think. Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) was created exactly to help scientists get used to the ambiance of distant isolation and long-during “planetary surface missions”. That was a sort of psychological experiment for NASA. And it’s lately come to an end. 
She-Martian: How Carmel Johnston Experienced A Year On Mars

Martian routine

Carmel Johnston, the team’s commander, was in charge of six engineers, physicists, astro-biologists and architects. With their every move overseen, the crew provided data on team dynamics and resilience from the high-stress confines of their tiny habitat: a dome of about 1,200 usable square feet. The dome, HI-SEAS, is a facility managed jointly by the University of Hawaii and NASA. It was designed to test how people will one day pass through all obstacles waiting there on Mars. HI-SEAS is about mind and body’s capability.

She-Martian: How Carmel Johnston Experienced A Year On Mars

Johnston and her colleagues lived together in a cramped 111 square meters of floor space. There were six tiny sleeping cubicles up in a loft, a kitchen, two bathrooms, a shower and an exercise area. For most of the time, they all stayed indoors. Every week or so, two of them were allowed outside for a walk while wearing a bulky space suit, imitating exploration of the planet surface. Email was the only tie to the world – and even this tie had a 20-minute delay as it would have on real Mars. Potatoes and barren soil from “The Martian” were real: “I did grow vegetables! We had lettuces, kale, chard, peas, beans, tomatoes—not very many tomatoes but we tried real hard—radishes, sprouts. Inside, we had a whole room dedicated to it. It was a biology lab, essentially. One of my goals was to make the whole place green. We had plants on the desks, on the stairs, in the back room. Everywhere we could put plants, we did,” Johnston told Broadly. She is convinced that if humans ever colonize Mars, they will definitely make it a bit greener.

She-Martian: How Carmel Johnston Experienced A Year On Mars

Human stays human

There is no big difference between worlds you travel to, if we speak about your mind and your soul. There is no need to rush beyond the stratosphere straight to neighbour planets to figure out who you are and who surrounds you. This one-year “trip” to Mars revealed too many things in Johnston’s life. “I had some really great friends who corresponded a lot during the year, and some that didn’t. Everybody has lives. It was interesting—those friends I wasn’t expecting to correspond with me a lot stepped up. They were on it. Some friends I thought would correspond a lot, didn’t. Out of sight, out of mind,” she said. However, there is no lose without gain. Living in such extraordinary conditions causes a sophisticated process of self-knowledge, self-analysis, introspection while cooperating with other members of the crew. Mars, Earth, Sun, Venus – it doesn’t matter, people can get in conflicts everywhere. And usually this is a main reason of their failure. Working as one mechanism is what can Earth teach us before a great “voyage” to Mars. “We were just a bunch of nerds in a dome. We agreed on some things, we didn’t agree on other things, and that’s how life goes in general, even here on Earth. You have people you get along with, or don’t get along with. You learn how to deal with that, and you work together toward the common goal,” Johnston said.

She-Martian: How Carmel Johnston Experienced A Year On Mars

Furthermore, we can hardly hide from loneliness while being in our own room or in the other galaxy. If it haunts us down, especially arm-in-arm with a great amout of work, how can we cope with it? Here is a small piece of advice from earth-bound astronauts: “The treadmill I ran on was so loud and shook the entire building. I turned to cleaning as a good stress reliever. I became the neat freak, which was a really interesting role reversal from my normal life,” Johnston told The Advertiser. Her crew managed to spend a whole year being extremely busy, doing what they were supposed to do and planning scrupulously every next hour of their life. It seems that knitting (another Johnston’s favourite way to spend her leisure) can really be a true life-saver.

She-Martian: How Carmel Johnston Experienced A Year On Mars

Ready for surprises

However, even aften spending a year on Martian replica, too far from civilization, Johnston still thinks she is not fed up with wonders. Especially, if we speak about those worked by people. “Peer pressure can be really good and really bad. It can lead you to do some really naughty things. But it can also be extremely motivating. The human condition is really interesting: I keep thinking I’ve seen it all and I can’t be surprised anymore. Then somebody does something and I’m still surprised by it.”

Human stays incredible in every world, it seems.

Johnston and her colleagues came down from Mauna Loa at the end of August, after which she returned to her home in Montana. She appeared at the Sydney Opera House’s All About Women festival in Sydney on March 5, the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on March 6, and will attend WOMADelaide’s Planet Talks in Adelaide on March 11.
She-Martian: How Carmel Johnston Experienced A Year On Mars

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