Nasa looking for applicants who want to pretend to live on Mars for a year

7 August 2021, 12:34

A proposal for the Mars Dune Alpha habitat on Mars (Icon/Nasa/AP)
Playing Mars. Picture: PA

Successful candidates will take up residence at Mars Dune Alpha in Houston in an experiment paving the way for a future real-life trip to Mars.

Nasa has started accepting applications for four people to live for a year in Mars Dune Alpha.

That is a 1,700-square-foot Martian habitat, created by a 3D-printer, and inside a building at Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

The project is part of the agency’s preparation for an eventual real-life Martian manned mission.

The paid volunteers will work a simulated Martian exploration mission complete with spacewalks, limited communications back home, restricted food and resources and equipment failures.

Nasa is planning three of these experiments with the first one starting in the autumn next year.

Food will all be ready-to-eat space food and at the moment there are no windows planned.

Some plants will be grown, but not potatoes like in the movie The Martian.

Matt Damon played stranded astronaut Mark Watney, who survived on spuds.

“We want to understand how humans perform in them,” said lead scientist Grace Douglas.

“We are looking at Mars realistic situations.”

The project is part of the preparations for a possible real-life trip to Mars (Nasa/Esa/PA)
The project is part of the preparations for a possible real-life trip to Mars (Nasa/Esa/PA)

The application process opened on Friday and the requirements are strict, including a master’s degree in a science, engineering or math field or pilot experience.

Only US citizens or permanent US residents are eligible.

Applicants have to be between 30 and 55, in good physical health with no dietary issues and not prone to motion sickness.

That shows Nasa is looking for people who are close to astronauts, said former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

He said that was a good thing because it is a better experiment if the participants are more similar to the people who will really go to Mars.

Past Russian efforts at a pretend Mars mission called Mars 500 did not end well partly because the people were too much like everyday people, he said.

For the right person this could be great, said Mr Hadfield, who spent five months in orbit in 2013 at the International Space Station, where he played guitar and sang a cover video of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

“Just think how much you’re going to be able to catch up on Netflix,” he said.

“If they have a musical instrument there, you could go into there knowing nothing and come out a concert musician, if you want.”

There could be “incredible freedom” in a “year away from the demands of your normal life”.

Attitude is key, said Mr Hadfield, who has a novel The Apollo Murders coming out in the autumn.

He said the participants need to be like Damon’s Watney character: “Super competent, resourceful and not relying on other people to feel comfortable.”

By Press Association

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