NASA’s Mars Simulation Team Emerges After A Year In A Red Planet Habitat

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NASA’s Mars analog mission team emerged from their simulated Mars habitat after spending more than a year separated from family, friends and everyday life here on Earth. During their time in NASA’s CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) habitat, the four team members took part in activities such as simulated “Marswalks,” and growing and harvesting crops.

As NASA prepares to return astronauts back to the Moon through its Artemis missions, it is also looking into new and innovative technologies to build habitats on the lunar surface. It will be through other missions, such as the CHAPEA Missions, that NASA and other space agencies will prepare for the next giant leap: sending astronauts to live on the Red Planet. The four volunteers who took part in CHAPEA Mission 1 spent a total of 378 days inside NASA’s Mars Dune Alpha, a 1700-foot 3D printed simulated Mars habitat built to support long-duration, exploration-class space missions.

The quartet comprised mission commander Kelly Halston, science officer Anca Selariu, flight engineer Ross Blackwell, and medical officer Nathan Jones. After the four team members emerged from the habitat yesterday, Halston remarked, “Hello. It’s actually just so wonderful to be able to say ‘hello’ to you all.”

To simulate living on Mars, the volunteers lived and worked inside the habitat for the entire 378 days. Along with taking part in simulated “Marswalks,” and growing and harvesting crops, the four members also performed maintenance on the habitat and their equipment. Another important aspect of the mission included the four having to work through challenges a real Mars crew might encounter, including limited resources, isolation, and delays of communication with ground control.

Steve Koerner, deputy director of Johnson Space Center, remarked most of the first CHAPEA Mission focused on nutrition, and how it might affect crew member’s performance. He added the data collected was “crucial science as we prepare to send people on to the Red Planet… Mars is our goal.”

Flight engineer Brockwell ardently remarked, “I’m very grateful to had had this incredible opportunity to live for a year within the spirit of planetary adventure towards an exciting future, and I’m grateful for the chance to live the idea that we must utilise resources no faster than they can be replenished and produce waste no faster than they can be processed back into resources.”

NASA has two more planned CHAPEA missions, with the next to start sometime in 2025, and the third in 2026.
Tags:  space, NASA, mars, 3D printing