Video: Could we be preparing to shift to Mars soon? Here's what you need to know about the Nasa simulation

Each of the three missions are a year long, and consists of four crew members living in an isolated 3D-printed habitat

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Photo: Nasa
Photo: Nasa

Published: Sun 7 Jul 2024, 12:36 PM

Last updated: Mon 8 Jul 2024, 10:24 AM

Have you been hearing a lot lately about how life on Mars would look like? Four citizen astronauts have just experienced it, and are back after a year-long Mars simulation.

What is this project, and what does it seek to achieve? Could we soon be shifting to another planet? Read on to know about Nasa's landmark Mars mission.


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3D-printed habitat

In a three-part analog mission series, named Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA), Nasa simulates the living conditions of Mars. Each of the three missions are a year long, and consists of four crew members living in Mars Dune Alpha. The crew will also have two alternate volunteers.


Photo: Nasa
Photo: Nasa

The simulation space is a 1,700 sq ft. 3D-printed habitat that includes workstations, a kitchen, private crew quarters, two bathrooms, along with dedicated areas for medical purposes, recreation, fitness, as well as food growing stations. The structure is located at Nasa's Johnson space centre in Texas.

3D printing has been used in this project since future space exploration may use this technology to eliminate demand for bulk building materials on multiple flights, thus significantly reducing costs.

Watch below, a sneak peek of the 3-D printed habitat, shared by Nasa:

What will life in Dune Alpha look like?

The volunteers will carry out simulated spacewalks. Life on Mars may be a far leap (quite literally!) from the comfort we know on Earth, and so crew members will also be have to go through planned equipment failure, limited resources, isolation, and other environmental stressors.

The 'spacewalks' may also consist of routine activities such as taking care of personal hygiene, having 'me-time', preparing meals (from growing the crops to eating it), exercising, and sleeping.

The CHAPEA mission 1 crew poses with a flag featuring their mission patch surrounded by their signatures, when they arrived at the facility. Photo: NASA
The CHAPEA mission 1 crew poses with a flag featuring their mission patch surrounded by their signatures, when they arrived at the facility. Photo: NASA

Mission timeline

An analog mission is a field test conducted "in locations that have physical similarities to the extreme space environments," according to Nasa. The human analog missions for Mars exploration are each a year-long, and dated as follows:

  1. Mission 1 – Began June 25, 2023 - Ended July 6, 2024
  2. Mission 2 – Starting 2025
  3. Mission 3 – Starting 2026

Nasa's first four volunteers in the Mars simulation have ended their mission after more that a year in the isolated habitat. The mission ended on Saturday, July 6.

According to media reports, Nasa said the crew planted and harvested several salad crops to add to their occasional shelf-food, and was also involved in environment and equipment maintenance.

Will we be going to Mars soon?

While Mars is the only other place that we know life may have existed in the solar system, there is a great deal to learn and explore before venturing into the atmosphere of the red planet.

Analog missions like CHAPEA help scientists and explorers to prepare for longer duration missions. The data gained from observation of the human simulations will help plan for astronauts' requirements on a mission to Mars, such as food system design needed, vehicle mass and volume requirements.

Scientists around the world are preparing to develop the technologies needed to successfully launch a round-trip mission, including a safe return to Earth.

(With inputs from Nasa and Wam)

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