NASA starts experiment: test astronauts enter 3D Mars facility

The US space agency Nasa started its Mars experiment today. Four test astronauts Kelly Haston, Ross Brockwell, Nathan Jones and Anca Selariu will spend a year in a 3D printed facility designed to simulate life on Mars. The mission is part of NASA’s plan to send astronauts to the planet. Overall, it is a series of three missions over the next three years, which are summarized under the abbreviation “Chapea” (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog).

The four crew members met at the NASA facility in Texas on Sunday. They will not leave the facility, dubbed Mars Dune Alpha, until July 7, 2024. NASA wants to monitor the physical and psychological effects on the crew and evaluate their resource consumption in order to collect as much knowledge as possible for future Mars missions.

Kelly Haston, a scientist who studies human diseases, is the mission’s commander. Ross Brockwell, a civil engineer, is the crew’s flight engineer. Nathan Jones is the medical officer who has emergency medical experience. Anca Selariu, a US Navy microbiologist, is on board as science officer. She was initially intended as a backup crew member, but replaced Alyssa Shannon, a nurse, before the mission started. Nasa did not provide an explanation for this change.

What is the situation in the Mars facility?

Seen from the outside, it is little more than a hangar or larger hall on the NASA campus in Houston, Texas. Inside, however, there is a 160 square meter complex facility that has various rooms and stations. Among them are:

  • four bedrooms
  • two bathrooms
  • a vertical farm
  • several jobs
  • common areas
  • a medical station

Fitness equipment and treadmills are also available, although the latter are not only intended for physical activity. They are placed on the “outside” of the facility, which is also located in the Nasa hangar. The crew should be able to simulate foot marches on field missions, like Suzanne Bell from Nasa phys.org explained. After all, you can’t let the team run in circles for six hours. You can find many more exciting insights into the Mars Dune Alpha facility in our picture gallery:

Exciting insights into the Nasa accommodation

“Mars Dune Alpha” – The Mars Station on Earth

How was the “Mars habitat” built?

As the NASA reports, the system was created using a 3D printer. This is also a glimpse into a possible future. Future space stations could be printed locally on Mars. Large amounts of building material (in this case lava concrete) can hardly be transported to Mars in the spacecraft for reasons of space and weight.

The three Chapea missions on Earth are just a few of many steps on NASA’s long journey towards a manned mission to Mars. Many other questions remain unanswered that need to be clarified elsewhere, such as the enormous radiation exposure on Mars. In just a few years, however, the US space agency wants to bring various samples from Mars back to Earth using several autonomous systems. They could arrive in 203o.

The first manned trips to the red planet could be undertaken in the middle of the next decade, but there is no concrete date. NASA is currently working flat out to bring humans back to the moon as part of its Artemis mission. Nasa hopes to be able to start its Mars missions from Earth’s satellite at some point.

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