The Mental Strains of a 500-Day Round Trip to Mars

New Scientist has an interesting Q&A with planetary scientist Pascal Lee about what it takes to live in isolated groups. Lee spoke to the publication about lessons learned from the Haughton Mars Project and about the upcoming Mars isolation experiment being conducted by ESA and Russia’s Institute for Biomedical Problems.

Q: What kind of problems can occur when people are cooped up like this?

A: I’ve had a flavour of this kind of living. I spent 402 days down in Antarctica as a young man, fulfilling my national service duties for France as a station geophysicist at Dumont d’Urville, France’s main Antarctic station.

We were isolated. At the time the total team was 31 – all guys. And the thing is, you notice that small little details take on huge proportions. Who took my pencil – that becomes a big deal. Because it’s a stressful environment and if it’s resource-constrained, then all of a sudden our survival instincts kick in. If there is a pencil to be had we need to have it.

Read the full interview.