Three men, three women, 365 days.

NASA, the US space agency, is concerned about the effect that prolonged isolation could have on the members of any potential mission to Mars—a mission that, they estimate, could take as long as three years.

To test how confined conditions and the lack of contact with other earthlings could affect a crew, they are funding a series of experiments run by the University of Hawaii, in which small teams are shut away in a facility that mimics the experience of living on the red planet. The longest of the trials to date—a full year—began this weekend.

Mars-like conditions are simulated by a small dome 8,000 feet above sea level, on a rocky plane of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii—thought to be the closest Earth analog to a Martian climate, as a New Yorker article on a related earlier experiment explained.

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