NASA locked 4 volunteers on a 3D-printed virtual Mars for over a year

Four volunteers will spend 378 days in a 3D-printed virtual simulation of Mars under NASA supervision in preparation for a real mission to the Red Planet, writes New York Post.

This experiment involves research scientist Kelly Haston, structural engineer Ross Brockwell, emergency medicine physician Nathan Jones and US Navy microbiologist Anca Selariu. They were locked into the virtual planet at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Sunday as part of the first of a three-year-long simulation study by the space agency.

“The knowledge we gain here will help enable us to send humans to Mars and bring them home safely,” Grace Douglas, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA, explained.

Nasa 3D-printed the 1,700-square-foot facility, dubbed Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog — or CHAPEA. The habitat will feature a kitchen, private crew quarters, and two bathrooms, with medical, work, and recreation areas.

The crew is expected to perform “mission tasks” such as collecting geological samples, exercise, personal hygiene, and medical care, with minimal contact with their family and loved ones.

To find out what life is like on Mars, the crew must work under “environmental stress” conditions, including resource limitations, periods of isolation, and equipment malfunctions. The only limitation that cannot simulate a habitable environment is the gravity of Mars, which is about 38% of Earth’s gravity.

Earlier, Impulse Space and Relativity Space announced plans to launch the first commercial mission to Mars in 2026.