This past summer, NASA announced that it was seeking applications from professionals who had certain qualifications and who were interested in spending more than a month in a simulated Mars habitat. Fast-forward to today, October 1, and the space agency is back with the names of the four people who will spend 45 days living and working in HERA, the Human Exploration Research Analog developed for the project.
Though it is the dream of space agencies and private companies around the world, humanity isn’t quite ready for a human trip to Mars. A number of technological innovations are still needed to make this kind of long-duration mission possible, as well as more research on everything from how to provide astronauts with fresh foods all the way through how well the human psyche will handle life spent living in a Martian outpost.
Among other things, NASA wants to know how teams will interact with each other and perform their duties while living in a relatively cramped Mars habitat, including the behaviors they may exhibit. That’s where HERA comes in: the latest simulated Mars living experience will last 45 days and involve relatively young, healthy non-smokers who can pass both psychological and physical tests.
This particular HERA mission will involve simulating a long trip to the Martian moon Phobos, including increasingly delayed communications with the outside world — all the way up to a five-minute delay back-and-forth between the team and the researchers. This will, among other things, force the crew to operate with a high level of autonomy in their own operations while helping refine the type of communication that would take place during an actual mission.
The primary crew for the upcoming HERA mission will include Lauren Cornell, Monique Garcia, Christopher Roberts, and Madelyne Willis. As well, NASA has selected backup crew members Justin Lawrence and Pu Wang. Additional Mars habitat simulation missions will take place in the future through September 2022, giving others the chance to participate.