Scientists resurface after a year in Mars simulation project – DW – 07/07/2024

After a year, four scientists in the United States on Saturday completed an experiment that simulated life on Mars.

The four volunteers left the NASA-built Mars Dune Alpha, where they had spent the past 378 days completely cut off from the outside world, to loud applause.

The 1,700-square-foot (160-square-meter) structure at the Johnson Space Center in Houston is designed to mimic conditions on the Red Planet. The habitat is a 3D-printed facility complete with bedrooms, a gym, common areas and a vertical farm for growing food.

The structure also has an outdoor area, separated by an airlock. The area is filled with red sand and is where the team donned suits to do their “Marswalks.”

What did the scientists do?

Anca Selariu, Ross Brockwell, Nathan Jones and team leader Kelly Haston have spent the past year growing vegetables, taking “Mars walks” and living under what NASA calls “additional stressors.”

These problems include delays in communication with ‘Earth’, including their families; isolation; and confinement.

When they left the habitat on Saturday, the four volunteers were visibly emotional.

“We can do these things together,” Brockwell said. “We can use our senses of wonder and purpose to achieve peace and prosperity and unlock knowledge and joy for the benefit of everyone in every part of planet Earth,” he added.

What space missions await us in 2024?

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What is the purpose of the mission?

The mission was the first in a series called Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA). The goal is to help NASA prepare to send humans back to the moon and, one day, Mars.

Julie Kramer, NASA’s director of engineering, said the project “gives us the opportunity to learn all these critical things about these complex systems, and it makes traveling to Mars and back a lot safer.”

More CHAPEA missions are planned for 2025 and 2027, she said.

In 2015-2016, a habitat in Hawaii hosted a year-long mission to simulate life on Mars. NASA participated in the mission but did not lead it.

As part of the Artemis program, the US plans to send humans back to the moon to learn how to live there long-term. This will help prepare for a trip to Mars sometime in the late 2030s.

dh/rmt (AFP, dpa)

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