Photograph by Nadia Drake
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Six crew members recently spent a year on simulated Mars, a mission that included wearing space suits each time they left the house.

Photograph by Nadia Drake

Take a Look Inside a House Meant for Mars

The solar-powered home has six bedrooms, a composting toilet, Wi-Fi with a 20-minute delay, and some seriously strict house rules.

For most people, spending a year with five strangers in a small dome two-thirds of the way up a Hawaiian volcano wouldn’t be especially appealing. But for the six crew members of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project, the mock Mars habitat wasn’t that bad.

On August 28, the HI-SEAS team exited the dome on Mauna Loa for the first time in a year. Here, they lived, worked, suffered, and problem-solved together, emerging from their voluntary isolation ready to rejoin the planet they’d left behind, in theory if not in practice.

Inside the 1,200-square-foot habitat, they dealt with a 20-minute communications delay, limited water supplies, and a few strict house rules. But as we saw on a recent tour, this habitat is the lap of luxury for Martian hopefuls. And if this two-story house were on the earthbound market, it would be a total steal, considering that room, board, and utilities are all free.

This is a surprisingly spacious, completely furnished, six bed, one bath home on the largest lot in the neighborhood (you will never see nor hear your neighbors). The carpeted ground floor has a vaulted cathedral ceiling, kitchen with an island, spacious pantry, science lab, ample office space, and exercise facilities including a stationary bike, treadmill, pull-up bar, knotted rope, and staircase.

Up those stairs are six small bedrooms, each with a charming sloped ceiling. Arranged in a cozy semicircle, the bedrooms are each large enough for a twin bed and personal items. The bathroom downstairs has an eco-friendly composting toilet and stand-up shower.

Speaking of eco-friendly, this dome-home is completely solar-powered—and when the sun can’t quite shine through the omnipresent Mauna Loa clouds, there’s an exercise bike that can charge batteries. (Bonus! You stay in shape.)

Plus, the view is killer: Gaze out over gently sloping lava fields, and on a clear day you can (kind of) see the volcano next door. Did we mention the yards? They’re pretty much endless and ripe for exploring, provided you don’t mind wearing a 60-pound space suit as you traipse over, around, and occasionally under some seriously sharp rocks.

There are mud rooms at either entrance, perfect for storing hazmat garb, space suits, and trekking poles, plus whatever grubby boots have been sliced and diced while exploring those lava tubes and caves. There’s no garage, but you won’t need one.

National Geographic Channel is currently in production on MARS, a global event series set to premiere this November. Join the journey at #CountdownToMars

Inside, the amenities are just right—not over the top and certainly not spartan. The kitchen is stocked with a coffeemaker, toaster oven, electric kettles, and hot plates for cooking. There’s a washer and dryer unit on-site, and buckets and clotheslines are available for hand-washing and sun-drying.

The pantry comes loaded with plenty of Spam, powdered wine, and enormous cans of freeze-dried food that will last for ages. Fresh kale, radishes, and wildflowers are available on occasion, and there’s a Joy of Cooking cookbook that will help you craft the perfect dishes with the available ingredients.

Itching for some entertainment? The living room has a bookshelf full of Russian language guides, DVDs, astronaut jigsaw puzzles, and board games, which are perfect for a wild night on the mountain with your five favorite roommates. There’s also a virtual reality setup where you can explore 30 different environments, in addition to creating your own personal getaway.

Finally, Wi-Fi is already installed. Although there’s that pesky 20-minute delay, you can send emails, texts, and video messages, completely Comcast-free. Oh and don’t forget the TARDIS: That’s there, too, although the sign says “out of order.” Whether that’s true needs testing, but you basically never need to leave the house, except to trek across those awesome yards, so why bother?

This home is right for you if you’re a non-smoker, in good physical shape, think backpacking food is delicious, crave occasional check-ins from researchers concerned about your stress level and well-being, and don’t mind the noise generated by roommates and somewhat nearby munitions testing. Also, you may need to be OK with recycling your own urine, which could become an added feature in the next year or so.

Please do not apply if you’re a couch potato, think the Earth is flat, hate science, and don’t want to turn yourself into a Martian guinea pig.

Applying as a group? Don’t. The home owners will match roommates for maximum compatibility, efficiency, and chore-doing, based on your application and subsequent interviews. Please also remember that overnight guests are not allowed—in fact, no guests of any kind are permitted. You also won’t be allowed to leave the property until your lease is up, but why would you want to?

Lease term is eight months, no deposits required, with openings available in both 2017 and 2018. Apply today!

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