NASA prepares its astronauts for life on Mars
Eva Deschamps / April 13, 2023
Houston (United States) - Four rooms, a gym ... The house, presented Tuesday by Nasa, seems commonplace but, from June, four people will be confined for over a year to simulate life on Mars.
The habitat, named Mars Dune Alpha, is located at the U.S. space agency's research center in Houston, Texas.
Those who inhabit it will help prepare for a future mission to the Red Planet. By measuring their performance and cognitive abilities, NASA will better understand the resources that need to be planned for this ambitious journey, says Grace Douglas, a CHAPEA program manager who is overseeing the experiment.
A crucial point, considering the very restrictive limits of weight that can be sent on these missions, she adds.
The 160 square meter house includes a vertical farm for growing salads, a room dedicated to medical procedures, a relaxation area and work stations.
An airlock leads to a reconstruction of the Martian environment. On the red sand floor are a weather station, a brick-making machine, a small greenhouse and a conveyor belt on which the fake astronauts will walk suspended from straps.
You can't make them walk in circles for six hours," smiles Suzanne Bell, in charge of Nasa's Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory program.
According to her, this carpet will reproduce the effort required for physical activity on Mars, but also situations of sample collection, information gathering or even construction.
The names of the volunteer confinees are not yet known, but it is already known that the team will not consist of astronauts. They will be regularly subjected to stress elements, with water restrictions or material breakdowns.
This house has another particularity: it was printed in 3D. This is one of the technologies that Nasa is studying to potentially build habitats on the surface of other planets or the Moon, says Grace Douglas.
The space agency is preparing a return trip to Mars, but the big departure is not for soon. This trip, which would last several years, could take place at the end of the 2030s, according to Nasa's boss, Bill Nelson.