(Houston) Four bedrooms, a gym… The house, presented Tuesday by NASA, seems banal, but, from June, four people will be confined there for more than a year to simulate life on Mars.
The habitat, named Mars Dune Alpha, is located at the US Space Agency’s research facility in Houston, Texas.
Those who inhabit it will help prepare for a future mission to the Red Planet. By measuring their performance and cognitive abilities, NASA will better understand the “resources” that need to be provided on this ambitious journey, says Grace Douglas, a CHAPEA program manager, who is overseeing the experiment.
A crucial point, given “the very restrictive weight limits that can be sent on these missions”, she adds.
The 160 square meter house includes a vertical farm for growing salads, a room dedicated to medical procedures, a relaxation area and workstations.
An airlock leads to a reconstruction of the Martian environment. On the red sand floor are a weather station, a device for making bricks, a small greenhouse and a treadmill on which the pretend astronauts will walk suspended from straps.
“You can’t keep them walking in circles for six hours,” smiles Suzanne Bell, NASA’s Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory program manager.
According to her, this mat will reproduce the effort required for physical activity on Mars, but also for collecting samples, collecting information or even building.
The names of the voluntary prisoners are not yet known, but we already know that the team will not be made up of astronauts. They will be under stress on a regular basis, with water restrictions or equipment failures.
This house has another special feature: it was 3D printed. “It’s one of the technologies that NASA is looking at to potentially build habitats on the surface of other planets or the Moon,” says Grace Douglas.
The space agency is preparing a round trip to Mars, but the big departure is not for now. This trip, which would last several years, could take place “at the end of the 2030s”, according to NASA boss Bill Nelson.