Mission to simulate life on Mars ends after more than a year

Steph Deschamps / July 15,

An experiment in which four volunteers simulated life on Mars has come to an end after just over a year. The participants were able to leave the Mars Dune Alpha simulator, the US space agency Nasa announced on Saturday.
The first mission in the so-called Chapea program, which was intended to help prepare for a future mission to the Red Planet, was launched in June last year. The four participants, two men and two women, spent exactly 378 days in Mars Dune Alpha. This is a 160-square-meter house designed to simulate life on Mars and installed at NASA's research center in Houston, Texas.
The dwelling included a vertical farm for growing lettuce, a room for medical procedures, a relaxation room and workstations. Through an airlock, residents entered a Martian environment. On the red sand were a weather station, a brick-making device, a small greenhouse and a conveyor belt on which the fake astronauts, suspended by straps, could walk. The house was built using a 3D printer.
Participants were not allowed to leave the simulator. They could communicate with friends and family, but this was done in "Martian time". Consequently, sending a short text message to the outside world typically took 22 minutes.
The participants' performance and cognitive abilities were closely monitored during the experiment. The aim was to "learn important things about complex systems and make the journey to Mars and back much safer", explains Nasa's Julie Kramer.
Ross Brockwell, one of the four volunteers, described his participation in the experiment as "extraordinary". "I really hope this will help us get a little closer to the reality of man's presence on Mars," he said on leaving the Mars Dune Alpha.
Nasa plans to carry out further Chapea missions in 2025 and 2027.
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