From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Researchers Study Human Impact of Switch to Mars Time

The success of missions to Mars will be thanks in part to human factors experiments conducted in the Arctic. In July the Mars Society reported that the scientists participating in a 4-month Mars simulation that began in May have reached the half way mark and will now begin a unique experiment by shifting their operational cycle to Mars time.

According to the organization, which was founded to further the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet, 
the seven-person crew of the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) is operating under many of the same constraints human explorers would face. FMARS is set up on Devon Island in the high Canadian Arctic, a Mars-like high polar desert, where the crew members have been conducting a geological and microbiological field studies.

Five human factors experiments are under way, including sleep and exercise studies, and the crew has just switched to Mars time, an experiment that increases the intensity of the simulation. For 36 days they will live according to the Martian day, which is 39 minutes longer than the 24 hour Earth day. Because the FMARS station is at 75 degrees north, it has no night and very little light variation in the month of July and the day-night operational cycle can be changed with relative ease.

To enhance the simulation, the crew will move their clock backward to the Mars cycle and black out the windows of their habitation between 6 pm and 6 am to simulate night. Meals, sleep cycles and outdoor work will be scheduled according to Mars time. This gives the team the means to investigate any physiological effects from switching cycles for long durations and the operational effects of using different, and constantly shifting, clocks when they are liaising with support teams on Earth time.

This will be the first time that a group, in realistic space exploration conditions, has lived and worked according to the longer Martian day, and researchers want to know how well crewmembers adapt, and if there are any negative effects. The success of future missions could hinge on recognizing and compensating for these human factors. The Mars Society says the experiment is unprecedented.

Source: The Mars Society