“Be careful! If you fall here, it’s a one-way trip.”My heart races as I glance into the giant hole in front of me. My breathing speeds up, fogging the plastic faceplate of my shiny white helmet. My feet crunch the fragile red volcanic rock as I cautiously make my way past the pit of no return, as I’ve dubbed it in my mind.I’m on the Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, but the endless expanse of red and black rock makes me feel like I’m on Mars.That’s the point.I’m visiting the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation habitat, or Mars HI-SEAS for short, that’s 8,200 feet above sea level and an hour’s drive from the beach. Dozens of would-be astronauts from around the world have lived here, as many as six at a time, in a 13,000-cubic-foot white dome for up to a year of training. They’re preparing for potential missions to Mars. Mostly researchers and scientists, they wear spacesuits every time they venture outside, and they experience 20-minute delays, each way, whenever they communicate with the outside world.Today, I get to be one of them.”The Mars base is as far away from civilization as it can… Read full this story
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