NASA will start training its astronauts for missions to Mars in a simulated habitat starting next year. Ahead of the ambitious project, the agency shared a teaser video showcasing the habitat that will house four candidates at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Named Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA), the mission would see candidates spend one year inside the habitat and train for conditions they would face on the red planet.
"Take a sneak peek at a 3D-printed simulated Mars habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center that will be home to four crew members for a 1-year Crew Health and Performance Analog sim that starts next summer," the Johnson Space Center's Twitter handle tweeted with a timelapse video.
Onward to Mars!— NASA's Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) November 10, 2022
👀 Take a sneak peek at a 3D-printed simulated Mars habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center that will be home to four crew members for a 1-year Crew Health and Performance Analog sim that starts next summer. pic.twitter.com/1jckiZ94Cc
The clip shared by NASA shows the engineers using the technology of 3D printing to build habitats that would include private quarters for the candidates along with a bathroom, kitchen and areas for recreation, work, exercise and farming.
Short for Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, CHAPEA, according to NASA, will start in the summer of 2023 and astronauts will be lodged for survival activities. The habitats, which are named Mars Dune Alpha, are being created using a material called lavacrete and will be spread across an area of 1,700 square feet. Apart from the aforementioned features, the habitat will also consist of a dedicated medical station and common lounge areas.
The US space agency says that three different crews consisting of four members will be selected for the year-long missions. "The analog missions will provide valuable insights and information to assess NASA’s space food system as well as physical and behavioral health and performance outcomes for future space missions", NASA said in an official statement. "Research from Mars' Dune Alpha habitat will be used by NASA to inform risk and resource trades to support crew health and performance while living on Mars during an extended duration mission."
Explaining the idea behind using 3D printing for habitat construction, the agency said that this method would eliminate the need to launch large quantities of building materials from Earth on multiple flights, something which would be extremely expensive.