In the world of space explorarion, talk about Mars is everywhere.
One day, we want to have humans land on Mars. As of right now, NASA is aiming for this to happen by the year 2030. That's only nine years away!
Such a mission would be a huge first for humanity—people living on another planet! But, not surprisingly, it will be an unbelievable challenge. Pulling it off will require all sorts of brand new tech and incredible amounts of detailed planning. And maybe most important of all, a brave, dedicated, and well-trained crew.
But how do you train a crew to do something that has never been done before?
The answer is that you run simulated missions here on Earth. Missions that both serve to train astronauts and give scientists a chance to learn what the astronauts will need most to survive on their new home.
Enter one of NASA's newest projects: Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, or CHAPEA. It's a year-long simulation of life on Mars as an astronaut. And NASA is looking for volunteers now!
Home away from home
CHAPEA will take place within a large 3D-printed habitat found in the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Called Mars Dune Alpha, this unique building is based on a concept for the actual living area that could be built on Mars when the mission happens.
The building is 3D printed because experts believe that this is the most likely way that we'll be able to carry out construction on such a remote place. Remember, to build anything you need materials. And equipment. And you need to transport all of those things to the construction site. 3D printing uses far less of these things than traditional construction, which means less stuff to bring on the about 393 million kilometres (244 million miles) trip to Mars!
Mars Dune Alpha is made for a crew of four people. Each person has their own living quarters, as well as common rooms, work areas, kitchen, food-growing areas, a fitness room, and more. The video below will give you a tour of it!
So let's just say it out loud. That video makes Mars Dune Alpha look like pretty much the coolest hotel in the world. Where do we sign up for our Martian-themed holiday?
But the truth of CHAPEA is that it will be extremely hard work. Everything about the mission is designed to be as realistic as possible, which is important since as fascinating as Mars is, its environment is brutally dangerous to humans. In each mission, the chosen crew will carry out tasks, run experiments, experience hazards similar to what they might experience on Mars, and just generally learn how to handle living in a building that, while super cool, is a place they essentially can't leave for a year.
NASA has opened applications now for the first of at least three CHAPEA missions. The first will happen in autumn 2022. Then a second in 2024, and the final begins in 2025.
And in the meantime, to learn more about how 3D printers work, you can watch our General KnOWLedge video on the topic! Enjoy!