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Crew of Simulated Mars Environment Emerges from NASA Habitat After a Year

Four volunteers emerged Saturday from a restricted Mars-like environment in southeastern Texas where they had been living and working for 378 days, a livestream of the event shows.

Crew Commander Kelly Haston, Anca Selariu, Ross Brockwell and Nathan Jones exited Mars Dune Alpha in Houston to applause at about 5 p.m., the livestream of the Egress Event showed. The four comprised the maiden Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) mission which entered the isolated, 1,700-square-foot, 3D-printed habitat on the grounds of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Johnson Space Center on June 25, 2023.

The crew engaged in “Marswalks,” supplemented their shelf-stable food supply with vegetables they grew in the environment and experienced life with limited resources, simulated communication delays with Earth and isolation, NASA stated.

The CHAPEA 1 mission was designed to simulate crewed Martian missions, which no country has undertaken and for which NASA is preparing.

NASA Johnson’s deputy director, Steve Koerner, and four others — NASA astronaut and Flight Operations deputy director Kjell Lindgren; CHAPEA principal investigator Grace Douglas; Human Health and Performance Directorate chief science officer Judy Hayes; and director of engineering Julie Kramer White — also participated in the simulated Mars experience.

Hailing the four volunteers as “dedicated,” Koerner said the crew had been “separated from their families, placed on a carefully prescribed meal plan, and undergone a lot of observation.” The crew, Koerner added, had been “conducting crucial science, most of it nutrition-based” as a test of stamina in preparation for human life on the Red Planet. Koerner also thanked the cross-disciplinary team which supported the crew.

“[The CHAPEA 1 mission] was the first of three NASA analog missions to simulate a Mars environment,” Koerner said. “This crew has helped us obtain crucial information as we prepare to return to the moon and on to Mars.”

“It’s actually just so wonderful to be able to say ‘hello’ to you all,” an overjoyed Commander Haston said.

Haston — a biomedical research scientist and registered member of the Mohawk Nation of the Six Nations of the Grand River, Canada — described the mission as “a unique experience with great challenges, joys, and sorrows, and a lot of hard work with a fair bit of fun thrown in.”

Flight engineer Brockwell of Virginia was grateful for “this incredible opportunity ” and “the chance to live the idea that we must utilize resources no faster than they can be replenished and produce waste no faster than they can be processed back into resources.”

Emergency medicine professor Jones of Illinois was the medical officer. The mission “went by quickly,” he said. He thanked “the American public for continuing to dare to dream that this humanity might go beyond Earth and our next giant leap forward.”

Romanian-born microbiologist and U.S. Navy officer Selariu was the science officer. She was “astonished … that I got to contribute to the one thing that is dearest to my heart: bringing life to Mars.”

A preparatory long-term crewed presence on the Moon via a series of lunar missions named Artemis will preface the planned crewed mission to Mars. One of the Artemis missions aims is to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon, according to NASA.

The ultimate goal of crewed Mars exploration is reportedly “the next giant leap.”

The completion of CHAPEA 1 was an important step in the U.S.’s plan to lead the ever-expanding global interest in and capabilities of space exploration, Koerner said.

READ 4 COMMENTS
  • Randall Parker says:

    I wonder if they have a “before” photo? Did the women have gray hair when entering the Mars environment, or was that caused while there?

    • Auntie Vyris® says:

      Imagine being locked in a 1,700 sq.ft. building with two women and you can’t leave.

      FOR A WHOLE YEAR.

  • Mr. Wright says:

    They don’t look well. No sun for a year? Eating highly processed and preserved food. Yuk.

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