A manned mission to the red planet to live in the Mars habitat requires a lot of planning and technological improvement. Since NASA clearly understands the dangers involved in sending humans to the hostile environment of Mars, the agency has dedicated its resources to preparing for this history-breaking mission that will occur soon.
The American space agency is handling a series of long-duration analogs on Earth named the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) to experiment with the human factors involved in sending a crew to the red planet. NASA recently announced that the first mission into the CHAPEA will be starting in June as four scientists will enter the 1,700-square-foot (158 square meters) habitat and live up to you for 12 months in a Mars-simulated environment. But who are these researchers that will be the first to experience Mars on Earth? Continue reading to find out.
The Four Scientists that will go into the Simulated Mars Habitat
In 2021, NASA announced the call for CHAPEA participants to apply for the position with requirements including a degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field plus a professional experience in that field, military training, or piloting experience. This implies that candidates selected for the CHAPEA program will also have to pass the same physical and psychological testing NASA astronaut candidates go through.
After a series of testing, NASA recently selected and announced the four best candidates for this mission. During the recent announcement, NASA officially announce the names of the scientists that will enter the CHAPEA in June. These scientists include the following.
Commander Kelly Haston, a research scientist focusing on studying human disease and she is the leader for this mission. The next person is Flight Engineer Ross Brockwell, a structural engineer. The third crewmate is Medical Officer Nathan Jones, an emergency medicine physician. While the last scientist on the team is Science Officer Alyssa Shannon, an advanced practice nurse. NASA also included two backup crewmembers and they include Aerospace and Defense Engineer Trevor Clark and U.S. Navy Microbiologist Anca Selariu.
How the Crew Will Survive in the Simulated Mars Habitat
NASA has built a 3D-printed habitat called Mars Dune Alpha at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. During the upcoming CHAPEA mission, the four selected researchers will live in this habitat for about 12 months conducting several experiments in a Mars-like environment. The 3D habitat includes living areas, private crew quarters, work areas, two bathrooms, and a kitchen. The environment also has a 1,200-square-foot (111 square meters) space filled with Mars murals and red sand.
The researchers will execute simulated spacewalks followed by virtual reality in this Mars-like environment. Once the CHAPEA crew enters the Mars Dune Alpha in June, they will start to engage themselves in various activities that astronauts would do on Mars. These activities include maintenance work on the habitat, cooking, cleaning, exercising, crop growth, and various scientific research.
The simulated environment is built the give the CHAPEA crew environmental stressors astronauts might encounter while Exploring Mars. These environmental stressors include communication delays with the Earth control center because of distance, equipment failures, and many others. Hence, the crew will encounter several challenges while living in the Mars simulated environment.
“The simulation will allow us to collect cognitive and physical performance data to give us more insight into the potential impacts of long-duration missions to Mars on crew health and performance,” Grace Douglas, the CHAPEA principal investigator, said in a NASA statement. “Ultimately, this information will help NASA make informed decisions to design and plan for a successful human mission to Mars.”
What NASA Hopes to Accomplish From this CHAPEA Mission
Before NASA commences with a mission to any space world, the agency will first run a simulated version of that celestial body on Earth with crew experimenting on the simulated environment. Unlike the moon where astronauts visited and returned in only a few days, a round trip to Mars is estimated to take about 21 months because of the launch window between Earth and Mars.
Hence, the 12 months that the crew will be spending in the Mars Dune Alpha is just small compared with the long duration to Mars. Any space agency launching a mission to Mars will have to wait for the two planets to align with each other. Hence, Mars astronauts will have to live and survive on the Martian surface before embarking on the return trip to Earth.
Hence, NASA is organizing the CHAPEA mission to study how to safely protect its astronauts while they explore the hostile environment of Mars. The American Space Agency is also planning two more CHAPEA missions in 2025 and 2026 respectively. From these CHAPEA missions, NASA will learn how to protect its astronauts while they visit Mars a decade or two decades away from now.
Surviving on Mars has been the primary goal of NASA and other space agencies working towards human missions to the red planet. However, with the knowledge NASA will obtain from the CHAPEA mission, the agency will be a step closer to sending humans to the hostile environment of Mars. What are your thoughts on living on Mars simulated habitat for a year?