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NASA Needs Posers for Mars Habitat in Texas

Those chosen will be isolated for a year and live on space food
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 6, 2021 5:25 PM CDT
NASA Seeks Pretenders for Mars Mission in Texas
A proposal for the Mars Dune Alpha habitat, which will host a simulated Mars mission.   (ICON/NASA via AP)

Want to find your inner Matt Damon and spend a year pretending you are isolated on Mars? NASA has a job for you. To prepare for eventually sending astronauts to Mars, NASA began taking applications Friday for four people to live for a year in Mars Dune Alpha. That's a 1,700-square-foot Martian habitat, created by a 3D-printer, and inside a building at Johnson Space Center in Houston, the AP reports. The paid volunteers will work a simulated Martian exploration mission complete with spacewalks, limited communications back home, restricted food, and resources and equipment failures. NASA is planning three of these experiments, with the first one starting in the fall next year. Meals will all be ready-to-eat space food, and no windows are planned. Some plants will be grown, but not potatoes like in the movie The Martian, in which Damon played a stranded astronaut who survived on spuds.

"We are looking at Mars-realistic situations," lead scientist Grace Douglas said, to see how humans perform in them. NASA isn't seeking just anybody. The requirements include a master's degree in a science, engineering, or math field, or experience as a pilot. Applicants have to be between 30 and 55 years old, in good physical health with no dietary issues, and not prone to motion sickness. That shows NASA is looking for people who are close to astronauts, said former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. That's a good thing, he said, because it is a better experiment if the participants are more similar to the people who will really go to Mars. Past Russian efforts at a pretend Mars mission called Mars 500 didn't end well partly because the participants were too much like everyday people, he said. There could be "incredible freedom," Hadfield said, in a "year away from the demands of your normal life."

(More NASA stories.)

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