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This is what it's like to live like a moon astronaut

por Gerard Wintle (2019-08-19)

id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> Walking on the moon is hard work. My spacesuit is getting hot, the helmet is weighing me down and I'm carrying a heavy backpack that's piping air to help me breathe. I'm so constricted by all this gear that if I want to look around, I need to turn my entire body.

Click here for To the Moon, a CNET multipart series examining our relationship with the moon from the first landing of Apollo 11 to future human settlement on its surface.

Robert Rodriguez/CNET I slide on the jagged lava rock a few times, but I'm slowly acclimating to this uneven, barren landscape with each step.

Then, just as I think I have my footing, the rock, or aa, starts to crumble.

"The joke is it's called aa because of the noise you make when you walk on it -- ah-ah!"

Astrobiologist Michaela Musilova is showing me how to spot the treacherous lava rock. The terrain looks so foreign it really does feel like I'm on the moon.

Fortunately, I'm still on Earth. Just a few hundred feet away from us is a white dome called Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS. It's a purpose-built habitat used to prepare humans for the challenges of living on the moon or Mars. 

Situated on Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, the location was originally chosen to house the faux astronaut base back in 2013 because the landscape is so similar to what's on the red planet. There's very little vegetation and plenty of lava rock.

Walking on the moon (on Earth)

Evan Miller/CNET In the past, HI-SEAS has been funded by NASA to run simulations of life on Mars, but in late 2018 it was converted to host lunar missions. As part of the International Moonbase Alliance, a consortium of scientists, astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and entrepreneurs like Henk Rogers (who also owns the dome), it plays an important role in establishing a sustainable human presence on the moon. 

It's a critical change, given NASA's accelerated timeline to put astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2024. Other companies are also trying to take humans further into space. Blue Origin, backed by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, wants to send humans to the moon on a similar timeframe and plans to build space colonies. Elon Musk's SpaceX has already sold a trip around the moon and has said it will get a cargo ship to Mars by 2022, with a crew following a couple of years later. 

Now playing: Watch this: I was a moon astronaut for the day 10:04 I'm in Hawaii to experience what it could be like to live as an astronaut on a mission to the moon or Mars. With Musilova, director of HI-SEAS missions as my guide, I'm going to learn how would-be astronauts prepare for life on another planet; from the food they eat to how they explore foreign terrain.

We're all living in a simulation
HI-SEAS looks fairly small from the outside. It's just 36 feet (11 meters) in diameter, but inside the dome feels deceptively big; almost like the Tardis from Doctor Who. 

Open this door and you enter the airlock, then the habitat itself.

Lexy Savvides/CNET Musilova is showing me around the habitat that she jokingly calls her "dome sweet dome." It accommodates six crew members with individual sleeping quarters, workstations, a lab, kitchen and dining area plus two bathrooms. I try everything from freeze-dried food (pineapple tastes great, but carrot will break your teeth) to the composting toilet (not as gross as it sounds).

The kitchen has a microwave, fridge and stove for eager cooks, but because food needs to be rehydrated, 유로247 spices are key to add some flavor. "I joke that the only difference between chicken and beef is the color," Musilova says.