One year on Mars: NASA launches a new experiment to simulate a flight to the Red Planet

June 26, 2023  14:43

NASA has launched an interesting mission with a simulated flight to Mars: a group of four astronauts will live on a “Martian” base for a whole year and do everything that they would do during a real mission to the Red Planet. You can watch them live.

The experiment involves Kelly Huston, Ross Brockwell, Nathan Jones and Anka Celariu. Their "Martian" base for the next 12 months is actually located at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It occupies an area of 158 square meters and is called "Mars Dune Alpha." The astronauts will have to live there until July 7, 2024, and leaving the 3D-printed structure will be possible only for the sake of small walks "on Mars" -- in fact, in the adjacent closed "sandbox" with an area of 111 square meters.

In total, NASA plans to conduct three such experiments (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, or CHAPEA), each of which will last a year. Observing the participants in the experiment will allow scientists to better design and plan future manned missions on the real Martian surface.

Suzanne Bell, head of NASA's Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory at Johnson Space Center, noted that the crew for the first mission was selected according to several requirements: a degree in one of the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), professional experience in the chosen field, piloting experience or military training. All participants in the experiment also had to pass the same physical and psychological tests as astronaut candidates.

The mission commander will be Kelly Huston (in the main photo she is in the middle), a research scientist who studies diseases. Ross Brockwell (left), civil engineer, will act as flight engineer. Nathan Jones (right) will fill the role of medical officer, drawing on his experience as an emergency physician. The fourth crew member, Anka Celariu, a US Navy microbiologist, will be a research assistant.

Huston, Brockwell, Jones and Celariu will not only have to live together for more than a year, but they will also have to adjust to the limited resources and other challenges the crew would face on Mars. Volunteers will have a special food system (freeze-dried, heat-stabilized and storage-resistant food), and communication with the "Earth" will be time-delayed (the mission control and security console will work constantly, but it will take 22 minutes to receive messages from Mars Dune Alpha). In addition, during the mission, they will encounter unforeseen situations.

However, there will be no simulation of Martian gravity (38% of gravity on Earth), and therefore volunteers will be spared the need to use a special toilet. Finally, the crew will live in Earth time, counting days, not Martian sols (approximately 24 hours 39 minutes 35 seconds).

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