Would you spend a year in a 3000 square foot hangar with three strangers, subsisting on freeze dried food, with limited contact with the outside world?
What sounds it could be like the premise for a new reality TV show is actually NASA’s latest experiment to prepare humans for upcoming Mars exploration missions.
The experiment, called the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA), is set to begin in June. Researchers will study how four people respond to the physical and mental challenges of living in the kind of environment those living on a Mars base would experience.
Suzanne Bell, lead for NASA’s Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory at Johnson Space Center, spoke with the Standard about how the study will work, and what researchers hope to gain. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Tell us more about this project. How will it work and what will be required of the participants?
Suzanne Bell: Well, CHAPEA is a set of three one year analog missions, and what we’re trying to do is simulate a Mars surface mission. So while we’re starting to learn about space and look towards the future of Mars with our space objectives, it’s really important for us to understand what will happen to the health and performance of the crew under Mars-realistic conditions.
So describe for us, if you can, the physical space for this yearlong mission. How do you go about replicating a base on Mars and what went into creating it?
Well, that’s a great question. So it’s 1700 square feet and a fun fact is that was 3D-printed, which might be one of the ways we would print a habitat on the Mars surface. And what we did was we got groups of experts together in different areas – whether it’s habitability or related to extravehicular activities – to advise us on what a Mars-realistic habitat might look like. So it has separate areas for living and working, private crew quarters are small, dedicated workstations, dedicated medical station, common lounge areas, and a gallery and areas for growing food.