NASA recruits people for a Mars simulation to understand the physical, mental and operational challenges of long-duration space missions


Space exploration research continues to grow at an exponential rate. Many new private business initiatives have contributed to this growth, including Elon Musk’s many successful launch successes with SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ recent ventures with Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s work with Virgin Galactic, not to mention name a few.

This is in conjunction with the efforts of seasoned government organizations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which has led much of the research, effort, and foundation for space exploration and travel over the years. Last 60 years.

Along with many private entities, NASA continues to promote cutting-edge initiatives in aerospace science. With growing interest around the world in exploring the Moon and potential journeys to Mars, NASA has announced a new program: the analogue of crew health and performance exploration (CHAPEA).

CHAPEA will lead to “a series of analog missions that will simulate one-year stays on the surface of Mars”, with the aim of better preparing future NASA missions and specific missions to Mars. As the program page describes, “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 various factors, which may include physical and behavioral health and performance. ” In addition, “[to] get the most accurate data over the analog, the habitat will be as realistic as possible on Mars, which can include environmental stressors such as resource limitations, isolation, equipment failures and heavy workloads. The main activities of the crew during the analog may consist of simulated spacewalks, including virtual reality, communications, growing crops, preparing and consuming meals, exercising, activities hygiene, maintenance work, personal time, scientific work and sleep.

The program will be essential in understanding how highly skilled and motivated individuals will perform under the rigors and pressures of a mission to Mars. Specifically, it will not only highlight operational challenges, but it will also highlight physical and mental health issues that future astronauts might encounter during long-duration space missions.

Earlier this year, I wrote about new research efforts trying to uncover the effects of space travel on the human body. Unequivocally, decades of research indicate that space travel impacts human health to varying degrees. An example I wrote on references a NASA Fact Sheet which deals specifically with muscle atrophy in space, and explains that “because astronauts work in a zero gravity environment, very little muscle contraction is required to support their body or move around […] Studies have shown that astronauts experience up to 20% loss of muscle mass during space flights lasting five to 11 days.

Such discoveries are crucial to the research and development efforts of NASA and other organizations interested in space travel. Especially as the space tourism industry grows and interest in longer missions away from Earth continues to grow, finding solutions to protect and improve human health in the world is extremely valuable. space missions.

Indeed, initiatives like NASA’s CHAPEA have an important purpose and will likely provide valuable information that can be used for generations to come. Ultimately, it is promising to see organizations like NASA continue to push the boundaries of space exploration and science in a well-informed and planned way that prioritizes the most important asset. of any space mission: the health and safety of crew members. .

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