Mars One: The Ultimate Small Group Experiment


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Video games reduce stress. Image by RebeccaPollard.

Video games reduce stress. Image by RebeccaPollard.

The Effects of Isolation

Dr. Lawerence A. Palinkas of the University of California authored a research paper on the effect of isolation on individuals and groups in Antartica.  He found that individuals in this extreme environment expressed discontent at the lack of privacy, the inability to separate work from leisure, and the potential for increased social conflict, especially since leaving the environment was not an option in the coldest, darkest months.

Those in Antartica must endure both cold and the lack of sunlight; Mars would have extreme temperatures, but the lack of light would probably not be a factor, depending on the location of the colony.

Research conducted by the Mars Society on seven participants who lived at Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah for two weeks discovered that vigorous exercise, music, and multi-player gaming relieved stress among the isolated participants.  Other environmental factors that affected the crew were, “acoustics, odors, lighting, and temperature.”

Mars One: Can Man Survive the Isolation?

The Mars One team will be taking many factors into consideration when planning the mission – food, potable water, and health among them. Will they take the mental health of the potential astronauts under advisement as well? Is it even possible to project the outcomes of a project of this nature? Carefully building a habitat with space to accommodate the astronauts’ need for exercise and other activities could mitigate many problems associated with small group living, but the findings of these limited experiments have obvious limitations in comparison to a lifetime on Mars.


McGraw Hill. Creativity in Small Groups(2000). Accessed January 21, 2013.

The Mars Society. Final Mission Report. (2013). Accessed January 21, 2013.

Mars One. Roadmap(2013). Accessed January 21, 2013.

Palinkas, L, On the Ice: Individual and Group Adaptation in Antartica. UCLA. Accessed January 20, 2013.

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