Dr. Sheyna Gifford, 36, a medical doctor from St. Louis with a special interest in astrophysics and deep space exploration, announced that she was preparing to live on Mars in a 1-year-long simulation of the mission sponsored by NASA.
She and five other people already entered a simulation of space mission at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. The simulation began August 28 and is slated to last a year. Participants will be kept in a 36-foot-wide geodesic dome, at a 8,000-foot altitude above the sea level on a isle in Hawaii.
NASA investigators want to make sure that participants can last a year in a environment that simulates how their lives would look on Mars.
Every crew member would be assigned a specific role. Ms. Gifford will be the mission’s MD, neuroscientist, and on-the-spot journalist due to her personal interest in astrophysics. She already made some videos that would help non-medical staffers treat minor injuries in future missions.
Ms. Gifford, however, is not at her first encounter with NASA. She successfully completed NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog early this year. But the latest mission would be longer than anything she ever experienced and a lot more complex.
She explained that the mission tries to test the viability of the mission as it was planned and the psychological endurance of participants. It’s not easy to live a whole year confined in a 1,700 square foot space. And it is even harder to live in that space for your entire life without the possibility of seeing your loved ones.
NASA’s Mars mission’s goal is to send to the Red Planet trained people that are supposed to conduct experiments, gather data for the space agency, and make themselves comfortable on the desert planet for up to three years. Future missions may last even longer, but the first one needs to be carefully planned beforehand.
The recent simulation plans to learn whether the food and water would last for a year, whether participants are able to stay together in a isolated environment, and how much scientific research can be done within 365 days.
The team includes a biologist, and astrobiologist, a rocket engineer, an architect, and a fluid physicist. Each of the crew members was carefully selected by NASA to make up a team with the overall necessary skills to survive on the Red Planet.
Their new home for a year has a kitchen, a toilet, a laboratory, a dining area, and a workout area. The second floor has a bathroom and six small bedrooms for the crew. Moreover, a suspended workshop recycled from a rocket container is attached to the dome.
When reporters asked Ms. Gifford whether she felt anxious about the 1-year-long simulation in an isolated environment she replied:
“Mentally, physically and socially, I have no concerns. Only curiosity.”
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