NASA seeks volunteers for a paid, yearlong simulated Mars mission

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(HOUSTON) — The future of Mars exploration is on the horizon and NASA is recruiting citizen volunteers to help make that future a reality.

NASA is recruiting qualified individuals to participate in a yearlong mission on a simulated version of the Red Planet, the agency announced this week.

The volunteers will live and work at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, inside Mars Dune Alpha, a 1,700-square-foot, 3D-printed habitat.

“For the explorers, the adventurers, the people who love science, this is a really unique and incredible opportunity to be able to contribute to science,” Suzanne Bell, lead for NASA’s Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory at Johnson Space Center, told ABC News.

The mission, which is the second installment of three planned programs from the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA), will last 378 days and is set to begin in Spring 2025.

“We mimic what we expect for a Mars habitat surface mission,” Bell said. “We collect all sorts of data so we can learn how humans can survive and thrive in that circumstance.”

The simulated Mars habitat will replicate the challenges of a mission in space. NASA says “resource limitations, equipment failures, communication delays, and other environmental stressors” will be a part of the mission.

Members of the four-person team can expect “simulated spacewalks, robotic operations, habitat maintenance, exercise, and crop growth,” according to the agency.

“Applicants should have a strong desire for unique, rewarding adventures and interest in contributing to NASA’s work to prepare for the first human journey to Mars,” the agency said in a press release Friday.

The current CHAPEA mission is on its 242nd day out of 378, according to Bell, who notes, “We are learning from this crew and collecting data every day.”

Bell says the three missions are designed to eliminate the “anomaly of a particular crew or individuals.”

“We’re seeing how we can best support people in the circumstances for their human health. We’re starting to see trends that we could interpret to best support people of the future,” Bell explained.

To qualify for the mission, you must be a healthy, nonsmoking U.S. citizen or a permanent resident between the ages of 30 and 55 years old and proficient in English.

The agency says applicants must have a master’s degree with STEM qualifications and experience in the field, or a minimum of 1,000 hours piloting an aircraft or the requisite military experience. A bachelor of science degree in a STEM field also may be considered, NASA said.

“What we are looking for in this call is everyday civilians who are very astronaut-like to be research participants for us,” Bell said.

Compensation for participating in the mission is available, according to NASA, but an exact salary will be provided during the candidate screening process.

The deadline to apply is April 2 on NASA’s CHAPEA website.

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