Photos: Mars on Earth

An ambitious team of NASA researchers learns what it may be like to live on Mars by living in a volcano on earth.
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Photos: Mars on Earth Pascal Perich for Newsweek

Since the U.S. planted a flag on the moon in 1969, a manned mission to Mars has long been considered the next challenge for mankind's exploration of the heavens. Over the decades, space exploration became passe and interest waned, but in 2004 President George W. Bush reignited the drive for the red planet with an ambitious plan to pump funding into NASA. The momentum was spurred on by the current administration and NASA has undertaken an ambitious plan to step foot on Mars within 20 years.

Over the last eight months a small team of six researchers in Hawaii have been simulating what a manned missions to Mars may look like by living in a dome nestled in the crater of the volcano. The unearthly environment provides an ideal setting to monitor the psychological response of human beings in conditions of isolation.

Martha Lenio, commander of the NASA human performance study Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation wears a spacesuit outside of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, on June 13. For eight months Lenio has lived in a dome, confined with five other researchers in the crater of the volcano as part of a NASA study studying the prospect of manned missions to Mars. The unearthly environment atop the volcano provides an ideal setting to monitor the psychological response of human beings in conditions of isolation. Gaia Squarci for Newsweek