A year out of this world: Nasa seeks volunteers to simulate Mars mission

For anybody already jaded by the news and joking about a trip to outer space to avoid it all, Nasa might just have you covered.

The space agency is seeking four volunteers to spend a year living on Mars – or at least a 3D-printed replica of the red planet. Isolation is pretty much guaranteed.

The venture, at its Johnson Space Center in Houston, is part of Nasa’s Chapea (crew health and performance exploration analog) program, which is designed to help develop and evaluate the systems that will be used by the first generation of astronauts to visit Mars, on missions ambitiously slated for the 2030s.

The agency says the volunteers will be living in a 1,700 sq ft habitat called Mars Dune Alpha, which will simulate the challenges of a Mars mission, “including resource limitations, equipment failures, communication delays, and other environmental stressors”.

The crew will undertake simulated spacewalks, robotic operations, habitat maintenance, exercise, and crop growth in the computer-generated reconstruction of the Martian surface.

Those selected will be compensated for their time, though Nasa does not say how much. Mission managers are focused on securing the right mix of candidates, and insist anybody who applies must have a university degree in engineering, mathematics, or biological, physical or computer science, and subsequent experience in those fields, or 1,000 hours as a pilot.

They also have to be healthy, non-smoking US citizens or permanent residents aged 30 to 55.

“Applicants should have a strong desire for unique, rewarding adventures and interest in contributing to Nasa’s work to prepare for the first human journey to Mars,” the agency said. Applications close on 2 April.

After training, the crew will become the second to live in the habitat from early next year. The four members of the Chapea 1 mission currently resident are scheduled to leave in August after a 378-day expedition that began last summer.


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