Podcasts To Listen To: The Habitat

The Habitat Podcast

Life On Mars?

Mars, also known as the Red Planet, has always created a certain level of interest and intrigue amongst the general public. Could there be signs of life out there? Will we someday, as a human race, step foot on planet Mars like we did the moon?

Beyond the curiosities of the general public, NASA has been keenly interested in Mars and has studied the great planet for a while now, having first launched robotics onto Mars decades ago to begin gathering data.

We know that the atmosphere of Mars would be lethal for humans to breathe in naturally. We know that the terrain is rocky, akin to a rough desert terrain. We know that temperatures can be unbearably cold. All these stated deterrents aside, NASA is indeed preparing to one day have a human presence on Mars.

Be it grand curiosity, or a last ditch failsafe against humanity’s tragic trashing of our own earth, the training and studies for Mars cohabitation are getting more comprehensive. Now, we in the general public have a first class ticket for a voyeuristic view into one such study.

Mars On Earth

The Habitat is a limited engagement 7-part podcast series that chronicles 6 up and coming NASA astronauts chosen to participate in a year-long simulation of living life on Mars.

Every detail of the simulation was crafted to mimic an actual stay on Mars, including the duration of a full year. When NASA does actually send humans to Mars, they have to be prepared to live there for a year. That is how long it takes for Mars and Earth to rotate to allow for the distance between them to be close enough again for the return trip home.

If your claustrophobia and angst are setting in just at the thought of this, relying on planetary rotations over the course of an entire year just for the chance to return back to earth, I am right there with you in shaken spirit.

Let me also remind you of the friendly confines of Mars, and by friendly, I am ironically referring to the lethal atmosphere, unbearable temperatures, and the requirement that any food you plan on eating while on Mars must be rationed, packed, and stowed on your outbound trip.

Once you are there, you are only able to consume what you packed for that entire year. There is no ability to restock on goods and especially no trips taken to Starbucks, although the latter’s name fits for a space-themed coffee joint.

To try and account for the sheer inhospitable nature of a future Mars trip and perhaps, more importantly, the psychological toll such a trip would impose upon its astronauts, NASA has established the ultimate of simulations out in Hawaii of all places.

They purposely chose a remote outlay located by an old volcano as their mock Mars playground. Hardened lava from a former eruption creates a unique landscape full of rocks, burrows, and caves, as close to the surface as Mars as you can find on Earth.

The living quarters for these astronauts, the actual structure, is a tiny white dome about the size of a half of a tennis court. These 6 individuals are crammed into this space and are effectively cut off from the rest of humanity as if they had just completed that outbound trip to the red planet and are stuck there for the entire next year of their lives.

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Unfiltered Access

The hosting duties of the show and the audio documentation captured from the simulation both come courtesy of the credentialed curiosity of science journalist Lynn Levy. Upon learning of this simulation, Levy asked for and received permission to supply the crew with audio recorders and encouraged them to document their every move, feeling, and thought.

The access is unfiltered and raw and the emotions that eventually come streaming out of the audio files are just as uninhibited.

Enthusiasm, boredom, monotony, anger, resentment, passion, and love are all eventually on display throughout a year’s worth of living condensed down to just 7 binge inducing episodes of The Habitat.

You can not help but to want to race through the shortened series to find out exactly where it all goes. For anyone who has ever watched a season of the Real World back in the day on MTV, you can probably guess.

Team members turn on each other, team members separate off into cohorts, and team members even become romantic. Every single range of human emotion possible is spilled out and captured and that is perhaps what NASA is most concerned about studying.

A Psychological Test

What is the potential psychological toll for a crew completely sealed off from the world with even less access to ground control that most NASA adventures in the past? While living on Mars is the backdrop and pretext for this simulation, the people and the correlating emotional experience are the true study, not so much the equipment and supplies.

The surprise star for me in this series is the host and narrator Lynn Levy. She has such an endearing curiosity and respect for these crew members. She adds a well-timed and healthy perspective for much of what unfolds during the year-long trial and she lends the perfect complement of color and context to the audio documentation.

The show also smartly weaves in audio and bits of information regarding actual NASA adventures from the past to help give listeners a true sense of just how monotonous, tedious and laborious these space adventures can get at times for astronauts.

From the repetition of data collection to the painstaking process of something that should be simple and private like moving your bowels, astronauts have to be a rare and special breed to want to subject themselves to the rigors and hardships required to endure outer space.

I breezed through the episodes of The Habitat and suspect many of you will be compelled to as well. Go immerse yourself for a few hours in a fun and entertaining bit of documentation of the human condition being put to an extreme test. The Habitat comes to us courtesy of Gimlet Media. Enjoy.

Please Comment

Could you ever see yourself committing to a year-long experiment like the astronauts from The Habitat? Please leave a comment. We want to hear from you.