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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Explained: How some people can pretend to live on Mars for a year

The mission is set to begin in Fall 2022 and will give four successful applicants the chance to live and work in a 1,700 square-foot module that is created by a 3D printer and is called the Mars Dune Alpha.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 8, 2021 11:43:51 am
Mars Dune Alpha conceptual render: Visualization on Mars. (Credits: ICON | NASA)

NASA is seeking applications for participation as a crew member for the first one-year long analog mission in a habitat simulated to feel like what staying on the surface of Mars would be like. This is the first of three analog missions called the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA), which is related to Mars. The other three are scheduled to take place over the next four years. The second analog mission is scheduled for 2024 and the third is scheduled for 2025.

What is this mission?

The mission is set to begin in Fall 2022 and will give four successful applicants the chance to live and work in a 1,700 square-foot module that is created by a 3D printer and is called the Mars Dune Alpha. The simulated quarters include a kitchen, areas for medical, recreation, fitness, work, crop growth, a technical work area and two bathrooms.

This habitat will simulate what it feels like to carry out missions on Mars including resource limitations, equipment failure, communication delays and any other environmental stressors. The crew will be expected to perform simulated spacewalks, scientific research and use virtual reality and robotic controls and exchange communications.

What is the purpose of this mission?

NASA says that the habitat in which the four crew members will stay will be as Mars-realistic as possible. The results from this analog mission will provide scientific data that will help in validating the systems that will be used for actual missions to Mars and also help in solving problems for spaceflight research. CHAPEA is not the only analog mission, there are others including Aquarius/NEEMO, Concordia, Desert RATS and HESTIA.

Analog missions are required because not all experiments can be carried out in space because resources and money are limited.

Who can apply?

NASA started accepting applications from August 6 onwards and will continue to do so until September 17. The required qualifications are that the applicant has to be a US citizen or permanent resident, be within the age of 30-55, possess a master’s degree in a STEM field, have at least two years of professional experience in a related STEM field.

NASA says that compensation will be available to the selected candidates and that there are some risks associated with participating in the analog mission, which include loss of subject privacy or confidentiality, minor discomforts and low-level radiation exposure from X-rays during medical exams and physical injury or a “highly unlikely chance of death”.

Finalists will also undergo medical evaluations, psychological testing, psychiatric screening in order to determine suitability for a physically and mentally demanding long-duration isolation mission. Further, candidates who have food allergies and avoidances or gastrointestinal disorders will not be selected.

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