Crew of NASA’s earthbound simulated Mars habitat emerge after a year

We may finally get some data reporting the reasons we really don’t want to live on the Red Planet. Ever.

The crew of a NASA mission to Mars emerged from their craft after a yearlong voyage that never left Earth. The four volunteer crew members spent more than 12 months inside NASA’s first simulated Mars environment at Johnson Space Center in Houston, coming out of the artificial alien enviroment Saturday around 5 p.m

Emerging after a knock on the habitat’s door by Kjell Lindgren, an astronaut and the deputy director of flight operations, the four volunteers spoke of the gratitude they had for each other and those who waited patiently outside, as well as lessons learned about a prospective manned mission to Mars and life on Earth.

The four volunteers for the CHAPEA-1 mission were Kelly Haston, Anca Selariu, Ross Brockwell and Nathan Jones. Their home for the past year-plus was Mars Dune Alpha, a 1,700-square-foot (158 square meters) 3D-printed habitat designed to feel like an isolated Red Planet outpost.

The quartet’s experiences in Mars Dune Alpha will inform NASA’s planning for real-life crewed missions to the Red Planet, which the agency aims to start launching in the late 2030s or early 2040s.

The volunteers grew their own vegetables, maintained equipment, participated in so-called Marswalks and faced stressors that actual space travelers to Mars could experience, including 22-minute communication delays with Earth.

After emerging from isolation on Saturday, CHAPEA science officer Anca Selariu reflected on why she and others chose to dedicate themselves to this particular effort.

“I’ve been asked many times: Why the obsession with Mars? Why go to Mars?” Selariu said. “Because it’s possible. Because space can unite and bring out the best in us. Because it’s one defining step that Earthlings will take to light the way into the next centuries.” (NPR)