Aug 10, 2021 I Paul Seaburn

NASA is Looking for a Few Good Men and Women to Live in a Mars Simulator For a Year

It won’t be worse than Matt Damon’s fictional solo experience on Mars because there will be a group, and hopefully it will be better than the combined Russian/ESA attempt to simulate living on Mars. It’s not much of a recruiting pitch but that’s the reality of NASA’s new search for volunteers to spend a year in isolation as part of its new Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) project. Will they emerge in a year believing that Mars will fear their botany powers?

“Each mission will consist of four crew members living in Mars Dune Alpha, an isolated 1,700 square foot habitat. During the mission, the crew will conduct simulated spacewalks and provide data on a variety of factors, which may include physical and behavioral health and performance.


The 3D printed habitat will include private crew quarters, a kitchen, and dedicated areas for medical, recreation, fitness, work, and crop growth activities, as well as a technical work area and two bathrooms.”

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No pyramids?

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Each of the three year-long missions will have a crew of four -- NASA is looking for healthy, motivated U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are non-smokers, age 30 to 55 years old, and proficient in English. Ideal candidates would have a master’s degree in a STEM field such as engineering, mathematics, or biological, physical or computer science or a minimum of one thousand hours piloting an aircraft. Medical doctors, test pilots and applicants with less advanced degrees but more applicable experience will be considered. Here’s what they’ll be (hopefully) experience:

“To obtain the most accurate data during the analog, the habitat will be as Mars-realistic as feasible, which may include environmental stressors such as resource limitations, isolation, equipment failure, and significant workloads. The major crew activities during the analog may consist of simulated spacewalks including virtual reality, communications, crop growth, meal preparation and consumption, exercise, hygiene activities, maintenance work, personal time, science work, and sleep.”

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No transportation testing?

If you were hoping for the full Matt-Damon-as-Astronaut Mark Watney experience, NASA will make sure that none of this happens:

“If the oxygenator breaks down, I'll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I'll die of thirst. If the Hab beaches, I'll just kind of implode. If none of those things happen. I'll eventually run out of food and starve to death.”
-- Matt Damon as Mark Watner in “The Martian."

And of course, someone will stop them if anyone attempts to dip a potato in crushed up Vicodin. Hopefully, nothing like Damon’s experiences will happen and these simulations will be better than the Mars 500 mission in 2013 when six people paid $100,000 each (there’s a difference right there) and ended up being in prolonged funks, having considerable trouble sleeping, depression issues, avoiding exercise or just moving about, and hiding from their observers. Was that just a bad experiment or could that be what will really happen on Mars?

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We're waiting for you.

“Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it's found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don't care, but they're massively outnumbered by the people who do.”

-- Matt Damon as Mark Watner in “The Martian."

Let’s hope NASA’s Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) missions meet Mark Watner’s idealistic expectations. For more information on the Mars analog mission, visit:

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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