NASA Mars analog crew sealed in for a year

NASA’s year long Mars analog has just begun with the sealing in of its four crew members. The habitat for the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) will not be reopened – assuming all goes well – until July 2024.

The habitat was 3D printed and provides separate living and working areas. The living area contains four separate crew quarters, a kitchen, a common lounge area and two bathrooms. The working area contains areas for medical care, fitness, research and crop growth.

There’s also an “outdoor” space for simulating the work conducted on the Martian surface, but this will only be accessible from within a spacesuit. As the whole analog is being run inside a large building the outside space will actually also be completely enclosed. There will be no sky visible.

The inside area has a total living space of just around 160m² (smaller than a singles tennis court), the outside about 110m².

See a video tour of the place via NASA’s Twitter:

Mars Like

The entire analog has been set up to be as Mars-realistic as possible. For instance, the crew will have to cope with a 20 minute delay when talking to “Earth” (the time it takes a message from Mars to reach Earth when the two planets are at their furthest separation) – the crew will only really be able to have real conversations with each other. They will also have limited access to water, and will even have to grow certain crops themselves (but much of their food will be taken with them).

They will of course have to cope with the realities of being isolated from everyone, but perhaps more importantly not being able to get away from the other three crew members! They will be able to receive recorded messages from friends and family, and maybe even a really slow WhatsApp chat.

Mars Different

But one thing they won’t have to deal with is the additional travel time any crew would have to endure before laying a foot on Mars – which would be around six months – the mission starts as they “arrive” on Mars. Another difference is they will only be experiencing a 24 hour Earth day (not a Martian length day of 24.5 hours) as this greatly simplifies the running of the real site by the NASA employees monitoring the site . (And of cause it’s impossible to simulate the reduced gravity a crew would experience on Mars)

It’s also worth noting that any crew on Mars would have a whole planet to explore, not the tiny outside space the analogue crew will have (now view of the sky for a whole year). It would actually be very easy to find a space to yourself on Mars, in a space suit, or perhaps in a rover, driving across the surface.

Entering the Analogue

You can see the moment that the four crew mates were sealed in to the habitat via NASA’s YouTube page, here:

Follow their exploits via the NASA web pages below. And sign me up for the next mission!


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