Have you heard the news? Earth is fucked. And unless you’re a reckless billionaire, chances are good you will never go to space. Only a handful of humans have ventured outside Earth’s atmosphere and lived to tell about it, and none of those lucky and extremely well-prepared souls (around 574 of them) has ever come close to setting foot on another planet. NASA wants to change that—sort of—by giving willing and capable volunteers a chance to live in a Mars simulator for a year.
You will not be preparing your meals in 1/3 Earth’s gravity or contending with rogue martian sandstorms, but you will be living in the most Mars-like environment the space agency can engineer at its Johnson Space Center in Houston.
How to apply to live in NASA’s Mars simulator
The mission is called the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, and it isn’t exactly open to the public: Applicants must have a fairly specialized and advanced level of expertise in a STEM field, such as a master’s degree in “engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics, from an accredited institution.”
NASA notes that its criteria for selection is basically the same as its astronaut program—which can be viewed here if you think you have to scientific bonafides for consideration. Needless to say, the Mars simulator isn’t necessarily open to the public, but U.S. citizens between the ages of 30–55 with the requisite experience in a science or technology field are encouraged to apply.
The purpose of the program is to create the closest thing to a Martian environment on Earth in order to better study living conditions on the Red Planet on the off chance that we manage to send a human there (before we utterly destroy Earth’s ability to support life, that is). And if this mission isn’t quite as flashy as certain billionaires’ grand dreams to one day turn human beings into a spacefaring species, NASA’s efforts will still play an important role in our broader exploration of the solar system.
The mission itself will consist of three separate, year-long stints at the Johnson Space Center. The space agency describes the living quarters in further detail, writing:
The 3D printed habitat will include 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.
The work will entail dealing with “environmental stressors such as resource limitations, isolation, equipment failure, and significant workloads,” NASA writes. Other activities will include simulated spacewalks using virtual reality, “communications, crop growth, meal preparation and consumption, exercise, hygiene activities, maintenance work, personal time, science work, and sleep.” Cataloging the data to inform future missions is also a central task. The three missions will take place in 2022, 2024, and 2025.
The requirements for consideration are pretty rigorous, so do please read through NASA’s criteria before you fire off an application. For any prospective applicants, the dream of fucking to space without actually blasting off in a rocket ship is closer than ever.