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“Mars is calling”: NASA is recruiting for yearlong simulated mission to the Red Planet

HOUSTON – Mars is calling! Who wants to answer the call? It may seem like a joke, but the warning appeared on the official website of NASA (Don’t believe it? Here is the link: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-is-recruiting-for- yearlong-simulated-mars-mission) and is a full-blown announcement: “NASA is seeking applicants for participation as a crew member during the first one-year analog mission in a habitat to simulate life on a distant world, set to begin in Fall 2022″. 

The key to deciphering the “call” and not thinking the leaders of NASA are crazy lies in that term, “analog”: as the space agency explains, “an Analog is a situation on Earth that produces effects on the body similar to those experienced in space, physical, mental and emotional. These studies help prepare for long duration missions”. In reality, therefore, it is a simulation, on Earth, of life on Mars. But the ultimate goal is to transfer “shack and puppets” to the Red Planet.

“In preparation for the real-life challenges of future missions to Mars, NASA will study how highly motivated individuals respond under the rigor of a long-duration, ground-based simulation”. The project includes three year-long simulations of the surface of Mars based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “The analog is critical for testing solutions to meet the complex needs of living on the Martian surface” said Grace Douglas, lead scientist for NASA’s Advanced Food Technology research effort at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Simulations on Earth will help us understand and counter the physical and mental challenges astronauts will face before they go”.

Each mission will consist of four crew members who will live and work in a 1,700 square foot 3D printed module by ICON, called the Mars Dune Alpha (in the pic above, from the NASA’s website). The habitat will simulate the challenges of a mission to Mars, including resource limitations, equipment failures, communication delays and other environmental stressors. A bit like in the movie “The Martian” with Matt Damon, in short.

Crew activities may include simulated spacewalks, scientific research, use of virtual reality and robotic controls, and exchange of communications. The results will provide important scientific data to validate systems and develop solutions.

But what are the requirements to participate in the (simulated) mission to Mars? NASA is looking for “healthy, motivated U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are non-smokers, age 30 to 55 years old, and proficient in English for effective communication between crew and mission control”. Crew selection will follow standard NASA criteria for astronaut candidate applicants and therefore “a master’s degree in a Stem field (which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is required, at least two years of professional Stem experience or a minimum of one thousand hours of piloting an aircraft. Candidates who have completed two years of work towards a doctoral program in Stem or completed a medical degree or pilot test program will also be considered. Additionally, with four years of professional experience, applicants who have completed military officer training or a Bachelor of Science in a STEM field may be considered”.

“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, click here to learn more and apply”, reads the announcement where there are links to further information and to submit applications (the NASA website is www.nasa.gov and the announcement is on the home page) and where it is also specified that there is a fee for participation: “Compensation for participating is available”.

Meanwhile, NASA is leading a return to the moon for long-term exploration. Through Artemis, NASA will land astronauts, including the first woman and the first black person, on the satellite’s surface. And the lessons learned on and around the Moon will prepare the space agency to take the next giant step: sending astronauts to Mars.

Watch here below the video “Nasa’s Mars Surface Simulated Habitat”

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