Living on Mars is no cakewalk.
NASA has finally unveiled its 3-D printed simulated Mars habitat — but trust us, it's no theme park.
Housed in a massive warehouse at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, the sprawling Mars facility will soon host four volunteers who will be confined to its sandy interior for an entire year as test subjects.
By closely monitoring the volunteers, NASA scientists hope to understand the effects of spending such an extended period of time trapped on another planet will have on human health and behavior.
"No matter how challenging or large or expensive something like this is, it's easier than doing it in spaceflight," Scott Smith, who leads the Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory at the space center, told The Guardian.
The facility is the closest Earthly analog to putting humans on the Martian surface you can get.
Its centerpiece is a 1,700-square-foot building called Dune Alpha, the volunteers' home away from home, complete with four bedrooms, two shared bathrooms, a greenhouse for growing food, and a medical room.
Oh, and let's not forget the all-important recreational lounge, where bored and likely exhausted mock Martian colonists can let off some steam by playing complimentary board games like Monopoly and, extremely aptly, The Starfarers of Catan, a sci-fi rendition of the hit board game Settlers of Catan.
There's even a PlayStation 4 Slim and a SNES Mini console — though you'd think with NASA's budget, the agency could spare its soon-to-be prisoners current-generation gaming systems.
NASA has unveiled its new Mars-simulation habitat, in which volunteers will live for a year at a time to test what life will be like on future missions to the Red Planet.
— in pictures https://t.co/ZYkGTkkjfb pic.twitter.com/sPpqJb12CQ
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) April 12, 2023
Not Far from Mars
That's about where the entertainment ends, though. Everything else about living on Mars will be pretty grueling.
Day in and day out, the pseudo-settlers will have to grow their own sources of food, consistently exercise, and conduct scientific experiments. If they need to step "outside," they'll have to don fake spacesuits and go through an airlock.
The volunteers will even be forced to trudge through simulated outdoor expeditions called "Marswalks" — long-winded strolls on treadmills overlooking walls covered by a mock-up of the Martian terrain, much like the boundaries of "The Truman Show."
And overall, food and other resources will be quite limited, forcing the crew to collaborate on how they dole out their supplies.
"You're asking for individuals to live and work together for over a one-year period," Suzanne Bell, who leads the Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory at the space center, told The Guardian. "Not only will they have to get along well, but they'll also have to perform well together."
Ironically, with only cutthroat games like Catan to kill the time with each other, it almost sounds like NASA is setting the volunteers up for anything but working together.
More on Mars: Scientists Propose Mars Settlers Live in Potato-Based Structures