"Our best wishes go with you."
NASA's Mars simulation mission is officially underway.
As CBS reports, NASA locked four non-astronaut volunteers inside a simulated Mars habitat on Sunday, marking the beginning of the space agency's Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA 1) missions.
The participants — a group that includes research scientist Kelly Haston, structural engineer Ross Brockwell, emergency medicine physician Nathan Jones, and US Navy microbiologist Anca Selariu — will remain in the 3D-printed Mars simulator for a full 378 days.
CHAPEA 1 is the first of three planned CHAPEA simulations and is designed to help us learn more about the "potential impacts of long-duration missions to Mars on crew health and performance," as NASA's Grace Douglas, the mission's principal investigator, said in an April statement.
And with limited space and a dizzying array of complicated challenges to tackle, the mission is incredibly daunting — and NASA certainly isn't taking the crew's commitment lightly.
"Thank you all for your dedication to exploration," Douglas told the crew during a Sunday briefing. "Our best wishes go with you."
The experiment is no joke. According to NASA, the simulator includes "private crew quarters, a kitchen, and dedicated areas for medical, recreation, fitness, work, and crop growth activities, as well as a technical work area and two bathrooms," all within just 1,700 square feet.
As CBS notes, the duties of the crew range from managing equipment failures, environmental stressors, and resource limitations to performing simulated spacewalks and growing crops. And in between all of that, participants also need to maintain their exercise, hygiene, and meal preparation routines.
If we're being honest, most of us have a hard time managing our exercise and hygiene regimens on a day-to-day basis — let alone while trapped inside a Mars simulator with three other grown adults for an entire year.
Close quarters aside, Haston, who has been crowned the team's commander, commended her fellow crewmates during the press briefing as an "amazing group of dedicated individuals who feel very passionate about space exploration and science," adding that space exploration "exemplifies some of the best qualities of humankind."
"The crew has worked so hard this month to get ready for this mission," said Haston. "It has been very special to be a part of such a tremendous group of scientists and specialists from a diverse set of backgrounds working together to bring CHAPEA 1, the first of three missions, to reality."
More on CHAPEA: NASA Selects Test Subjects to Contain in Simulated Mars Base
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