The Habitat is the perfect podcast to listen to on your morning commute. It’s the best background sound when you want to sleepily close your eyes, press play, and escape to a different planet — literally.
Released in April 2018 by podcast-behemoth Gimlet Media, The Habitat is about life on Mars – or rather, what life would be like on Mars. Listeners are taken behind the scenes of a NASA simulation, where six volunteers agree to give up a year of their life in the spirit of scientific experimentation.
In practice, this means that six adults — three women and three men — are physically and socially isolated in a dome the size of a tennis court on a far-off Hawaiian mountain for 365 days. The Habitat documents the participants’ experiences in confinement – the good, the bad, and the mundane.
The podcast is soothingly simple. Listeners overhear the team’s monotonous lives, often with background noise, long pauses, or dull conversations. The host, Lynn Levy, is your friendly guide into the experience as she navigates the daily lives of those in the dome with us.
The six individuals speak to Levy, documenting their days, sharing information about their families back home, and reflecting on their feelings about others inside the dome. As the individuals discuss their lives, Levy slyly inserts background history on space travel in a charmingly nerdy way. In one episode, the possibility of romance and sex within the dome is explored. Levy then provides listeners with historical context, explaining how NASA doesn’t explicitly ban space sex but does try its best to prevent coupling of participants seeing that it may complicate missions.
The episodes touch on routine, friendship, homesickness, and extreme annoyances, showcasing how the experiment isn’t truly about the scientific possibilities of reaching Mars, but rather, how human emotion may place the entire operation in jeopardy.
A rich finish to each chapter, every episode ends with a variation of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
When listening, you’ll feel as though you’re inside this weird, wacky, and deeply challenging experiment. It’s an out-of-this-world experience.
Disclosure: Kaitlyn Simpson previously served as Volume 139 Managing Online Editor of The Varsity, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Varsity Publications Inc.
Editor’s Note (September 28, 12:13 pm): This article has been updated to reflect the author’s former and current affiliations with The Varsity.