Mars Crew Emerges From Training Habitat With Deep Understanding

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They blinked at the natural sunlight and couldn't place the funny smell at first, until they realized it was fresh air.

If we’re ever going to colonize Mars, humans need to practice ahead of time, with a safety net here on Terra firma. The first four volunteer NASA crew members safely “returned to Earth” on Saturday, after more than a year locked inside NASA’s simulated Martian environment. They blinked at the natural sunlight and couldn’t place the funny smell at first, until they realized it was fresh air. The first thing they mentioned was how great having someone new to talk to will be. They were also planning high calorie feasts at the earliest opportunity. All four crew members have a newfound appreciation of the need for maximizing resources to a razor’s edge.

Mars mission returns

Four NASA Mars crew members “emerged from their craft after a yearlong voyage that never left Earth.” On Saturday, July 6, around 5 p.m. they broke the seal on “the artificial alien environment” set up at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Kelly Haston, Anca Selariu, Ross Brockwell and Nathan Jones enthusiastically “entered the 3D-printed habitat on June 25, 2023, as the maiden crew of the space agency’s Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog project.

Mission commander Haston was the first one out. “Hello,” was all she could manage. Then, adding on reflection, “it’s actually just so wonderful to be able to say ‘hello’ to you all.

They were all really happy nobody included “The Shining” in the crew video library. Medical officer Nathan Jones observed that keeping busy with the Mars mission tasks helped a lot. Their 378 day mission “went by quickly.

The environment was modeled as realistically as possible with the habitable enclosure measuring a meager 17,000 square feet. The primary focus of their mission, beyond basic survival and psychological stability, was simulated exploration of Mars.

The sim-spacewalks, or “Marswalks,” were augmented by “growing and harvesting vegetables to supplement their provisions and maintaining the habitat and their equipment.

The environment was modeled as realistically as possible.

Pioneering another planet

Pioneering Mars will be amazingly similar to the taming of the American West, or any other far frontier. From the time of the sailing ships, small, isolated bands of colonists relied on themselves and what they could find and use in their new home.

Messages to and from the homeland took months or years to make the round trip. We may have more advanced technology but the challenges are correspondingly more complicated.

On Earth, the pioneers learned to chop plenty of wood and stockpile plenty of food before winter. Excuses didn’t count for much because you couldn’t eat them, once everyone was snowed in tight.

These four astronauts “also worked through challenges a real Mars crew would be expected to experience including limited resources, isolation and delays in communication of up to 22 minutes with their home planet on the other side of the habitat’s walls,” NASA relates.

Steve Koerner, deputy director of Johnson Space Center explains “most of the first crew’s experimentation focused on nutrition and how that affected their performance.” They were all “separated from their families, placed on a carefully prescribed meal plan” and watched under a microscope the whole time. Deputy director of flight operations Kjell Lindgren learned a big lesson about “a prospective manned mission to Mars and life on Earth.

Flight engineer Brockwell underscored “the mission showed him the importance of living sustainably for the benefit of everyone on Earth.” He’s very personally convinced that “we must utilize resources no faster than they can be replenished and produce wastes no faster than they can be processed back into resources.