​NASA puts 4 people non-stop in a Mars simulation for a year

A space trip is not just something. Yes, if you are a tourist who dips your toe in space maybe, but often space travel is many days, sometimes even weeks and maybe years in the future. NASA plans to investigate the influence of the planet Mars on humans, but how do you go about that? The space agency has decided to lock up four people in a Mars simulation to see if they can cope with the stress of visiting this planet.

Mars simulation

The four have been locked up since June 25 and live in a 3D-printed enclosure for a year. The only people they have around them are the three they are doing this research with. The Mars simulation is located in Houston, where NASA’s Johnson Space Center is, and the idea is that people are going to learn about the psychological and social challenges they’ll face when they go to Mars. It is not only the Red Planet itself that comes with the necessary challenges, the journey there is also quite intense and takes many months. Plus: you are extremely far from home and that also does something to you psychologically, as we were able to sympathize in the movie The Martian.

NASA’s program is called Chapea, but the question is whether it is easy to simulate such a thing properly. On Mars you cannot close the door behind you and leave, the team on Earth can do that now, although it is obviously not desirable. But yes, the four people have no direct contact with the outside world, except for contact with mission control (which has a delay of 20 minutes) and the ability to record (and receive) video messages for 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 that planet). No plants, no animals, no water in the view: just lifeless, red earth.


That doesn’t sound like a party, but it is an interesting experiment. Moreover, the four are allowed to go outside, namely a few times a week to take a Mars walk (in spacesuits). Furthermore, the residence looks a bit like the average student house: the furniture is a kind of IKEA, everyone has their own small room (the entire building is 158 square meters) and there is a kind of living room and more. Bathrooms have to be shared, just like the gym, the workspace and of course the kitchen. That in itself is already intense for some people, let alone if you also have to remember that you are on Mars and are not allowed to talk to anyone else.

It’s not that they have to be bored all day: they get the same ones that astronauts have on the ISS, for example. In addition to those space walks, they must, for example, grow plants (still some life in the brewery), exercise, clean and do research. A lot of research is also done on the crew to see how they are doing in terms of health. Hopefully they last a long time: there was a similar experiment in 2018 where people were ‘released’ after four days after one of them received an electric shock.


It is genuinely very interesting to learn how people react to this. We immediately envision a kind of Aliens-like situation with a group of people left together in a spaceship. And to think that the people doing this experiment also have it pretty easy compared to the people who will soon have to be on Mars, where life is much rougher and so you know you can’t just get out. That said, it is certainly not an easy mission: few people would probably endure it well. So they are heroes anyway, especially because they can mean a lot to other earthlings.

Laura Jenny

When she’s not tapping, she’s traveling around the wonderful world of entertainment or some cool place in the real world. Mario is the man of her life,…

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