(Houston) Four bedrooms, a gym… This house presented by NASA on Tuesday looks ordinary, but starting in June, four people will be holed up 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 center in Houston, Texas.
Its inhabitants will help prepare for a future trip to the Red Planet. By measuring their performance and cognitive abilities, NASA will better understand the “resources” that must be provided during this ambitious mission, explains CHAPEA program manager Grace Douglas, who is overseeing the experiment.
An important point, he adds, given the “very restrictive weight limits sent on these expeditions”.
The 160 square meter home includes a vertical farm for growing lettuce, a room dedicated to medical procedures, a rest area and workstations.
An airlock leads to a reconstruction of the Martian environment. The red sand floor features a weather station, brick-making equipment, a small greenhouse, and a treadmill that pretend astronauts will walk on suspended from straps.
“We can’t make them walk in circles for six hours,” smiles Suzanne Bell, program manager for NASA’s “Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory.”
According to him, this mat will recreate the effort required for physical activities on Mars, but also for collecting samples, gathering information or building.
The names of the volunteer prisoners are not yet known, but we already know that the team will not be made up of astronauts. They are constantly under stress with water restrictions or equipment failure.
This house has another special feature: it was printed in 3D. “This is one of the technologies that NASA is exploring to develop possible habitats on the surface of other planets or the moon,” says Grace Douglas.
The space agency is preparing a mission to Mars, but no big departure yet. According to NASA boss Bill Nelson, the multi-year journey could happen “in the late 2030s”.