Isolation Insights From Sheyna Gifford, Who Spent A Year In A Mars Simulation

After a 248-million mile journey from Earth, Mariner 9 is depicted in this artist’s rendering going into orbit around Mars on Nov. 13, 1971. Mariner 9 is the first United States spacecraft to orbit another planet. The image shows Mariner 9 in orbit around the Red Planet with Earth and its moon, somewhat enlarged, in background. (AP Photo)
After a 248-million mile journey from Earth, Mariner 9 is depicted in this artist's rendering going into orbit around Mars on Nov. 13, 1971. Mariner 9 is the first United States spacecraft to orbit another planet. The image shows Mariner 9 in orbit around the Red Planet with Earth and its moon, somewhat enlarged, in background. AP Photo
After a 248-million mile journey from Earth, Mariner 9 is depicted in this artist’s rendering going into orbit around Mars on Nov. 13, 1971. Mariner 9 is the first United States spacecraft to orbit another planet. The image shows Mariner 9 in orbit around the Red Planet with Earth and its moon, somewhat enlarged, in background. (AP Photo)
After a 248-million mile journey from Earth, Mariner 9 is depicted in this artist's rendering going into orbit around Mars on Nov. 13, 1971. Mariner 9 is the first United States spacecraft to orbit another planet. The image shows Mariner 9 in orbit around the Red Planet with Earth and its moon, somewhat enlarged, in background. AP Photo

Isolation Insights From Sheyna Gifford, Who Spent A Year In A Mars Simulation

Updated 10:42 a.m. on July 11

Sheyna Gifford spent a year living on a volcano in Hawaii with just five other people as part of HI-SEAS IV, a NASA-sponsored project to simulate life on Mars.

Living in a biodome the size of a two-bedroom apartment and going outside only in their space suits, the crew studied the psychological effects and group dynamics that could be at play when astronauts eventually make it to Mars.

But this interview — about relationships, food and free time while in isolation — also has a few interesting parallels to our collective situation during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

“It just teaches you to appreciate everything you have on this planet,” Gifford told Nerdette a few months after the mission ended in 2017.

“Lights that turn on when you want them to. Water that can run when you want it to. The ability to call your friends and family and hear their voices in real time,” Gifford said. “All of those things that you just think of as something that you can do at the drop of the hat become impossible on Mars, and therefore become very precious. So it’s good for you as a person. It gives you a sense of perspective and gratitude.”

In this episode of Nerdette, Gifford tells co-host emeritus Tricia Bobeda what living in a box on top of a volcano for a year was like. Plus, she explains why you should think carefully about who and what you want on your spaceship.

This episode originally aired in February 2017. That full interview can be found here.