Would you like to try living on Mars but not sure if you want to experience the nine month flight time to get there? NASA is looking for applicants to serve as crew members for a year-long analogue mission in a habitat to simulate life on the Red Planet from fall 2022. All you have to do is get to Houston, Texas and you will even get paid.
NASA is looking for “highly motivated individuals” who would like to take the year-long test to see how astronauts might react to the rigors of a long-lasting, but earth-based, Martian simulation.
The prerequisite for application is that you are a healthy, motivated US citizen or permanent US resident, aged 30 to 55, non-smoker and proficient in English for effective communication between crew and operations command. The crew is selected according to NASA’s standard criteria for applicants for astronaut candidates.
NASA will be running a number of these analog missions – known as Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, and they hope to run three year-long Martian surface simulations with subsequent missions in the 2024 and 2025 Space Center, with four crew members for each simulation operating in a 1,700 square foot space large, 3D printed module called Mars Dune Alpha live and work. NASA says the analog missions will support research to develop methods and technologies to prevent and resolve potential problems in future manned space missions to the moon and Mars.
Mars Dune Alpha will be a 3D printed structure simulating a realistic Mars habitat to support long term exploration class space missions. Photo credit: NASA and ICON.
“The analog is critical to testing solutions that meet the complex demands of life on the surface of Mars,” said Grace Douglas, senior scientist for NASA’s advanced food technology research at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Simulations on Earth will help us understand and meet the physical and mental challenges astronauts face.”
Some of the challenges test subjects face are resource constraints, device failures, communication delays, and other environmental stressors.
Astronauts on Earth are working on a simulated Mars exercise. Photo credit: NASA.
Many space experts and behaviorists believe that one of the greatest challenges facing human missions to Mars will be limited and delayed communication with Earth.
“A big turning point will be when we don’t have real-time communication with Earth,” said Dr. Albert Holland, a senior industrial psychologist who heads NASA’s Behavioral Health and Performance Group at JSC, interviewed me in 2020. “I think people are underestimating how much this is changing space exploration as we know it today will.”
Communication to the moon has a 1.3 second delay, allowing real-time conversations to continue while crews can still feel connected to the earth, their families and ground control. But once a come lag is introduced, the missions will change radically.
“Crews will need more autonomy and self-sufficiency, which will require overlap in key technical areas in the event a crew member becomes incapacitated or lost,” said Holland. “The crews will need stronger, vertical, hierarchical authority compared to what we currently have on the station, where the chain of command is rather flat. There will be a huge operational difference between a vehicle in LEO and something outside of the convenient real-time communication point. “
Some of the crew duties that NASA expects for these analog missions include simulated space walks, scientific research, the use of virtual reality and robotic control, and communication. The results will provide important scientific data to validate systems and develop solutions.
To apply, visit this website or click this website to learn more about the program.
NASA says they are particularly interested in people with a masters degree in a STEM field such as engineering, math or biology, physics or computer science from an accredited institution with at least two years of professional STEM experience or at least a thousand hours of piloting an airplane is required. Candidates who have completed a two-year doctoral degree in MINT, a medical degree or a test pilot program are also taken into account. In addition, applicants with four years of professional experience who have completed officer training or a Bachelor of Science in a MINT area can be considered.
NASA says this mission is for you “if you have a strong desire for unique, rewarding adventures and are interested in contributing to NASA’s work in preparing for the first human journey to Mars.”
Previous analog astronauts tested a ground penetrating radar called ScanMars in a Mar-like area in Oman. Image: OeWF – Austrian Space Forum