52-year-old woman will stay on Mars for 365 days; Here’s why

During their training period, the US space agency, NASA will evaluate the behavior of a crew in an isolated and confined environment. Participants will face equipment failures and water limitations in Houston. Besides, their communications with the outside world will suffer from the delays that exist between Earth and Mars — up to 20 minutes one-way, depending on the planets’ positions — and 40 minutes two ways.

Haston said, “I’m very excited about this, but I’m also realistic about what the challenge is”.

The Martian habitat in Houston, dubbed Mars Dune Alpha, is a 3D printed 1,700 square-foot (160 square-meter) facility, complete with bedrooms, a gym, common areas, and a vertical farm to grow food.

“It’s actually a surprisingly spacious feeling when you go inside it,” said Haston, who visited last year before her participation was confirmed.

“And we do have an outdoor area as well where we will mimic spacewalks or Mars walks.”

The crew will have to don their suits to do “spacewalks” — “probably one of the things that I’m looking forward to the most,” Haston said.

Sharing her apprehension, Haston said she is worried about how she will manage to be away from family. She’ll only be able to keep in regular touch through email, and only rarely via videos, but never live.

To cope, she plans to draw on her past experiences, such as a research expedition in Africa where she studied the genetic characteristics of frogs around Lake Victoria.

She spent several months sleeping in cars and tents, with four people, without reliable cell phone coverage.

Feelings of isolation “are things that I think feel very familiar to me.”


Kelly Haston

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Kelly Haston (AFP)

About the Mars mission:

This mission is the first of a series of three planned by NASA, grouped under the title CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog).

A year-long mission simulating life on Mars took place in 2015-2016 in a habitat in Hawaii, but although NASA participated in it, it was not at the helm.

Under its Artemis program, America plans to send humans back to the Moon to learn how to live there long-term to help prepare for a trip to Mars, sometime towards the end of the 2030s.

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Updated: 27 May 2023, 01:53 PM IST