Mission CHAPEA One: Scientists Begin Year-Long Journey in Simulated Mars Environment.
With those words, four volunteers sealed themselves inside the simulator pod at Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, embarking on NASA’s ambitious year-long mission dubbed “CHAPEA” or “Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog” mission.
Although it’s not the actual planet Mars, the volunteers will be living in a 1,700 square feet space designed to replicate the conditions and challenges of life on the red planet. Over the next 378 days, these scientists and engineers will conduct various experiments aimed at understanding the human impact of potential future Mars missions.
The 3D-printed space comprises four bedrooms, a dining/living area, a workspace equipped with a vertical farm for cultivation, and a medical room. The crew will face a series of challenges resembling those encountered during an authentic Mars mission, including equipment failures, communication delays, and environmental stressors.
Before entering the Mars Dune Alpha, the crew members took a moment to express their thoughts and bid farewell to loved ones. Nathan Jones, the medical officer, lovingly said goodbye to his wife and children, declaring, “I love you to the Moon – I’m sorry – to Mars and back!” The cheers from the crew resonated behind the closed door.
Crew commander Kelly Haston expressed admiration for the team’s dedication and preparation leading up to this mission, emphasizing the collaborative efforts of scientists and specialists from diverse backgrounds who came together to make CHAPEA 1, the first of three missions, a reality.