Space travel isn’t just a thing. Yes, if you are a tourist dipping your toe into space, space travel is probably many days, sometimes weeks and possibly years into the future. NASA plans to investigate the impact of Mars on humans, but how do you do it? The space agency decides to lock four people in a simulation of Mars to see if they can handle the stress of visiting the planet.
The four have been imprisoned since June 25 and have been living in a 3D-printed container for a year. The only people around are the three they’re doing this research with. The Mars simulation is located in Houston, where NASA’s Johnson Space Center is located, and the idea is that people will learn about the psychosocial challenges they will face when they go to Mars. Not only does the Red Planet itself come with the necessary challenges, the journey there is also quite intense and takes many months. In addition: you are very far from home and this also affects you psychologically, as we were able to empathize in The Martian.
The NASA program is called Chapea, but the question is whether it would be easy to properly simulate such a thing. On Mars you can’t close the door behind you and leave, the team on Earth can do that now, although it’s obviously not desirable. But yeah, the four people have no direct contact with the outside world, aside from calling Mission Control (which is delayed by 20 minutes) and the ability to record (and receive) video messages to friends and family. All they see “outside” is the red soil we know from Mars (and that’s all we know, because that’s all there is on the planet). No plants, no animals, no water in view: only lifeless red earth.
This doesn’t feel like a party, but it is a fun experience. Moreover, the four are allowed to go out, that is, a couple of times a week to walk on Mars (in spacesuits). Moreover, the housing is somewhat similar to an ordinary student’s house: the furniture is some kind of IKEA, everyone has their own small room (the area of \u200b\u200bthe whole building is 158 square meters) and there is some kind of living room and more. Bathrooms should be shared, as should the gym, workspace, and of course the kitchen. That in and of itself is really intense for some people, not to mention if you also have to remember that you’re on Mars and you’re not allowed to talk to anyone else.
It’s not that they have to be bored all day: they get to have the same things as astronauts on the International Space Station, for example. In addition to space walks, they must, for example, grow plants (some still life in the brewery), exercise, clean, and do research. A lot of research is also done on the crew to see how well they are doing in terms of health. Hopefully it lasts a long time: There was a similar experiment in 2018 where people were “released” four days after someone had been given an electric shock.
It’s really interesting to see how people react to this. We immediately imagine some sort of alien-like situation with a group of people left together in a spaceship. And to think that people who go through this experiment also have a lot of ease compared to people who will soon have to be on Mars, where life is more difficult and so you can’t just get out. However, it is certainly not an easy task: few people will probably tolerate it so well. So they are heroes anyway, especially since they can mean a lot to other earthlings.
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