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July 09, 2024

NASA's Mars Habitat Experiment Ends With Crew Exit

The first volunteer crew to live inside NASA's Mars habitat at the Johnson Space Center in Houston completed their 378-day simulated mission. The crew members-Kelly Haston, Anca Selariu, Ross Brockwell, and Nathan Jones emerged from the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) habitat. Their exit was marked by a welcome ceremony broadcast on NASA+, NASA Television, the NASA app, and the space agency's website.

Simulated Mars Environment

CHAPEA's Mars Dune Alpha is a 3D-printed, 1,700 square-foot habitat designed to replicate a realistic Mars environment. It features distinct living and working areas to support the crew's daily activities. Since entering the habitat on June 25, 2023, the crew has undertaken Mars mission operations, including virtual reality "Mars-walks" and the cultivation of vegetables to complement their stored food supplies. They also maintained equipment and faced challenges such as isolation and communication delays with Earth.

Celebrating a Milestone

NASA celebrated the crew's one-year milestone in a recent post on X, highlighting the importance of the CHAPEA mission. "The CHAPEA mission 1 crew has celebrated one year in a simulated Mars habitat at NASA Johnson," the agency wrote. "Research done during missions like CHAPEA helps us prepare for future Artemis missions by learning how to live and work safely in deep space conditions."

Volunteer Recruitment and Preparation

The selection process for CHAPEA began in September 2021, following NASA Artemis' call for participants in a one-year Mars surface mission simulation. The agency spent 18 months interviewing and selecting applicants, who were cautioned about the risks involved, including privacy loss, minor discomforts, physical injury, and the highly unlikely chance of death.

Future Missions and Research

NASA plans to utilize the findings from the CHAPEA mission to inform its Artemis campaign, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon and conduct the first crewed missions to Mars. In addition to the year-long mission, NASA is conducting shorter, 45-day simulated Mars missions at the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) facility. The second of four groups of volunteers was announced in April, with the final group scheduled to complete their mission by the end of the year.