Nathan Jones wondered if his family could play Uno with an up to 22-minute communications delay — each way.
Ross Brockwell convinced a lifelong friend to manage his miscellaneous affairs, and Kelly Haston stockpiled videos of friends and family.
These three strangers — plus Anca Selariu, a backup crew member who was added to the mission on Tuesday — will spend 378 days pretending to be on Mars. They embarked on that journey Sunday around 7 p.m.
The crew will live in a 1,700-square-foot habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Its reddish-brown walls look as if they were made from Martian dirt. There’s an additional 1,200-square-foot sandbox for when the crew ventures “outside.”
They will live as if they’re actually on the Red Planet. The crew members will have an exercise regimen to stay healthy. They will have restrictions on how much water they can use for showering. Their food will be shelf stable, and communication with loved ones could be intermittent.
All of this is to help NASA identify and remedy the physical, mental and social challenges that could arise when living on another planet. It’s better to observe how such stressors affect a crew on Earth than when astronauts arrive on Mars for the first time.
“It’s definitely going to be challenging,” Brockwell said, “but that’s why we’re doing this. How we learn to cope with that is some of the most important information they’re going to get out of this study.”
Overall, the crew members were most worried about the isolation from friends and family. They weren’t as worried about the shower restrictions or food.
The crew’s habitat was 3D-printed by Austin-based Icon. In the future, the company is looking at adapting its cement-based 3D printing for Mars. The building material could be created with Martian soil — and Brockwell finds this particularly fascinating.
Pretty cool. You can see them enter the mission area, called Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, or CHAPEA, here. There’s more on the CHAPEA mission here; I very much hope this has a social media presence, I’d love to see regular updates. I’m also old enough to remember Biosphere 2, and I hope this is a lot more successful than that was. Anyway, I wish them all luck and I look forward to hearing about what they learned. CBS News has more.