Wanted to be an astronaut growing up? This might be your chance to live out those childhood dreams.
Four lucky people will get to live out a Matt-Damon-in-The-Martian-style fantasy – but without actually having to leave Earth.
NASA began taking applications on Friday, August 6 for an experimental project meant to prepare for eventually sending astronauts to Mars (on which a Norwegian scientist is currently flying a helicopter for NASA!)
A simulated space experience
The four chosen applicants will spend a year in “Mars Dune Alpha” – a 160-square-meter Martian habitat. This mini-Mars on Earth was created by a 3D printer, and it sits inside a building at NASA headquarters in Houston, Texas.
Those chosen to participate will be paid to live and work within the environment, in what will effectively be a (simulated) exploration mission to Mars.
There will be simulated spacewalks and equipment failures – while communications to friends and family and resources will be limited. Food (which will consist of space food and some plants that will be grown onsite) will also be restricted.
“We want to understand how humans perform in [such conditions],” lead scientist Grace Douglas told The Associated Press (AP). “We are looking at Mars realistic situations.”
NASA is planning three of these experiments, with the first slated for fall of 2022.
Strict application requirements
Applicants have to be people similar to astronauts. Since real astronauts will be the first to go to Mars in real life, the experiment aims to create conditions as close as possible to the (eventual) real thing.
If you’re thinking about applying, keep in mind that requirements include holding a master’s degree in science, math, or engineering, and/or having pilot experience.
Also, along with having a US citizenship or permanent residence, applicants have to be between 30 and 55, not prone to motion sickness, and in good physical health, without dietary problems.
Confirming the need for these strict requirements is former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Hatfield told AP that, for example, past Russian efforts at a simulated mission to Mars weren’t too successful because people involved in the experiment were, well, too average.
Advice from a former astronaut
Hadfield said the experiment could be great for those chosen, however, if good fits are found. “Just think how much you’re going to be able to catch up on Netflix.” He also noted, “If they have a musical instrument there, you could go into there knowing nothing and come out a concert musician, if you want.”
This is part of the “incredible freedom” Hatfield claimed could be found in “a year away from the demands of your normal life” in Mars Dune Alpha.
He also noted that participants actually should be somewhat similar to Damon’s character in The Martian, named Watney: “Super competent, resourceful, and not relying on other people to feel comfortable.”
Hadfield himself is known, among other things, for covering David Bowie’s Space Oddity during a 5-month stint at the International Space Station in 2013.
Source: AP / #NorwayTodayTravel
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