NASA is currently looking for four individuals to participate in a challenging year-long simulated Martian experience known as the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA). This program involves living in a confined habitat called Mars Dune Alpha, facing limited resources, environmental stressors, and equipment failures. The objective is to gather data on a variety of factors such as physical and behavioral health and performance to better prepare for future crewed missions to the Moon and Mars.

The selection process for the CHAPEA program is rigorous. Eligible candidates must be US citizens or permanent residents between the ages of 30-55, in excellent health, non-smokers with no criminal record, and have at least a master’s level of STEM qualifications. Additionally, candidates must have a minimum of one thousand hours as an aircraft pilot or completed military officer training. The application questions cover a range of topics from diet and gut health to experience with isolation and claustrophobia, as well as expectations for the experience.

The participants in the current CHAPEA mission began their journey on 25 June 2023 and are already halfway through. Throughout the mission, the crew members have overcome various challenges, including growing crops in isolation within the 3D-printed building at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Medical officer Nate Jones reflects on the experience by stating, “The best and the worst part of the mission so far has been how fast it’s flown by. I know that it’s been a truly special year here so far, and so I’m really going to miss it, but I also can’t wait to see my family and friends again.”

The online application deadline for the CHAPEA program is Tuesday 2 April 2024. Interested individuals must undergo a thorough selection process that can take up to 14 months. Candidates must be prepared to provide detailed information about their backgrounds, qualifications, and ability to handle the challenges of the simulated Martian environment. Questions about experiences with isolation, claustrophobia, and handling the COVID isolation period are included in the application.

Participating in NASA’s CHAPEA program presents a unique opportunity for individuals with dreams of Mars to test their abilities and contribute valuable data for future missions. The challenges of living in a simulated Martian habitat can help researchers better understand the physical and psychological impacts of long-duration space travel. As the first of the three planned CHAPEA missions progresses, the data collected and experiences gained will be crucial in preparing for human exploration of Mars.


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