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A NASA crew is about to finish a yearlong Mars mission isolation experiment

Four volunteers are set to leave a simulated Mars habitat that they've been living in since June of last year.
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Posted at 2:53 PM, Jul 03, 2024

NASA is concluding a yearlong Mars mission experiment — and four volunteers are set to leave a simulated Mars habitat that they've been living in since June of last year.

NASA's Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog experiment was built to research how to keep astronaut crews healthy and productive during long missions to Mars. It took place in a 1,700 square-foot 3D-printed habitat that mimics the conditions crews will face during a Mars mission.

On June 25, 2023, Kelly Haston, Anca Selariu, Ross Brockwell and Nathan Jones entered the habitat and have been inside ever since.

They have run science experiments, practiced mock Marswalks and even farmed some of their own food, bringing a bit of Earth's green with them.

“Salad crop production may supplement the packaged meals, reduce menu fatigue, and provide a creative outlet for the crew to add a variety of fresh produce to their diet,” said NASA's Gioia Massa, who leads the experiment's farming team. “Growing plants may also provide psychological benefits for astronauts living in isolated, confined environments away from Earth, and we hope to capture data on both of these aspects.”

In addition to their experiments and tests, the crew dealt with the other realities of a Mars mission, including isolation, simulated equipment failures and intentionally delayed communications with the rest of Earth. During a real mission, radio signals can take more than 20 minutes to go one way between Earth and Mars, which means real-time communications aren't possible.

The crew is set to return to the outside world on Saturday, July 6. NASA will be streaming the event.

NASA plans to run two more yearlong experiments in the habitat. The next mission will begin in Spring of 2025.

Related story: NASA astronauts will stay at space station longer for more troubleshooting of Boeing capsule