Ultra runner Kelly Haston is not going stir-crazy inside her 1,700-square-foot Martian habitat, and that’s a pleasant surprise.
“It is comfortable and spacious, and I do not yet miss being outside,” Haston said. “I am an avid trail runner, and I was worried I would miss being outside with friends and loved ones.”
Haston is the commander of a four-person crew spending 378 days inside Mars Dune Alpha, a 3D-printed “Martian habitat” at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
They have restrictions on how much water they can use for showering. Their food is shelf-stable, meaning it will keep without refrigeration, and communication lags can be up to 22 minutes each way.
They’re pretending to be on Mars to help NASA identify the physical, mental and social challenges that could arise when living on another planet.
And as of Aug. 23, when she answered the Houston Chronicle’s written questions, Haston did not feel cooped up. The crew regularly leaves the habitat to explore Mars, and this has satisfied Haston’s urge to go outside. They explore by putting on spacesuits and leaving their habitat for an adjacent 1,200-square-foot sandbox. They don virtual reality headsets and take long walks on treadmills to conduct scientific collections and observations.
“The terrain is beautiful,” Haston said, “with many different land formations to see and explore.”
See here for the background and more on the CHAPEA mission here. So far it sounds like a combination of summer sleepaway camp and the early days of COVID lockdown, with far less existential angst. If she and her crewmates are still talking like this in another 300 days or so, I think there may be a lot of people who’d gladly sign up as volunteer beta testers. We’ll see when there’s another update.