Crew inside NASA's Mars habitat simulator to exit after more than a year

NASA’s CHAPEA crew, consisting of members Kelly Haston, Anca Selariu, Ross Brockwell, and Nathan Jones, will depart from a simulated Mars habitat on Saturday, July 2, after living in it for over a year. This ground mission, known as Mars Dune Alpha, was conducted at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The crew carried out various Mars mission operations, including simulated Mars-walks and growing their own vegetables, to prepare for future Artemis missions.

The Mars Dune Alpha habitat, a 3D-printed, 1,700 square-foot structure, was designed to simulate a Mars environment with separate living and working areas. The crew entered the habitat on June 25, 2023, and spent their time maintaining equipment and facing stressors such as isolation and communication delays with Earth.

NASA has been conducting research through missions like CHAPEA to better understand how to live and work safely in deep space conditions, crucial for future Artemis missions that aim to return astronauts to the Moon and send crewed missions to Mars for the first time.

Interestingly, the CHAPEA crew’s application process began in September 2021 after NASA Artemis announced its search for participants for a one-year Mars surface mission simulation. Potential applicants were warned about the risks, which included loss of privacy, minor discomforts, physical injury, and an extremely rare chance of death.

In addition to the year-long CHAPEA mission, NASA also rotates volunteers for 45-day journeys to Mars at its Human Exploration Research Analog facility. The second of four groups was announced in April, with the final group concluding their stay at HERA by the end of the year. These simulations are vital for NASA’s mission to explore the cosmos further and expand human presence beyond Earth.

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