Big Brother Mars: NASA has opened registration for a kind of Big Brother edition set on Mars. All kidding aside, the space agency will select a crew to participate in a simulated mission to explore the red planet. The project will serve as a preparation to identify the real challenges of a possible future trip, by studying how individuals will behave under a rigorous and long-term regime on an Earth base.
This type of initiative is called an analogous mission, which takes place through field tests in built locations that resemble extreme environments. In this situation, it is observed how the human body responds to physical and mental effects. It is a low-cost alternative that provides solutions to potential problems in space flight and supports research to develop more efficient methods and technologies.
“[This] analogous mission is essential for testing solutions that meet the complex needs of life on the Martian surface. Earth simulations will help us understand and combat the physical and mental challenges astronauts will face before departing,” said Grace Douglas, NASA scientist, in an official statement.
In this case, the current project will last for one year and is scheduled to start in 2022. The habitat should be as realistic as possible regarding the reality of the Martian surface and the spacecraft that will carry the astronauts. They will live in an approximately 158-square-meter module called Mars Dune Alpha—comprised of private bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and areas for recreation, medical care, exercise and laboratories.
The site will put isolation to the test, with resource limitations, equipment failure, communications delay, as well as other stressors, with a significant workday. After “disembarking”, the crew must conduct “space” walks and scientific research, using virtual reality and robotic controls. Such a set of scenarios and actions can provide important data for the development of systems in a real exploration.
In some ways, it’s similar to what Mark Watney (Matt Damon) experienced in “Lost on Mars” (2015), a film based on the eponymous book by American writer Andy Weir.
How to apply for the NASA simulation?
Selection to participate in the scientific adventure will follow NASA’s standard criteria for astronaut candidates. Those interested must present US citizenship or a visa that proves permanent residence in the country, proficiency in the English language and be between 30 and 55 years old, in addition to not being a smoker.
Other requirements involve having a master’s degree — from an accredited institution — in engineering, math, biological, physical, medical or computer science, with at least two years of work experience or a minimum of 1,000 hours flying an aircraft. Candidates who have completed military officer training with four years of experience may also be considered.
Finalists will undergo medical and psychological assessments to determine their ability to fulfill the role — a selection process that can take more than a year to complete.