For a year, four volunteers have confined themselves to a simulated martian habitat.

On Sunday, four researchers donned black jumpsuits and entered a red world, where they will work and live for a year in a Martian simulation.

This week, volunteers arrived at NASA’s CHAPEA habitat, which stands for Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog. They will spend 378 days in the enclosed, Mars-like world to help the space agency prepare for future missions to the Red Planet.

During a press conference before entering the habitat, research scientist Kelly Haston, one of the four participants in the ongoing study, stated, “I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to be a part of this crew and the mission.” Being both a scientist and a test subject and producing data that may lead to new methods and safer space travel is a personal and professional highlight.

In April, the study included Hatson, structural engineer Ross Brockwell, emergency medicine physician Nathan Jones, and U.S. Navy microbiologist Anca Selariu. In 2021, NASA issued a call for volunteers seeking “healthy, motivated” citizens of the United States aged 30 to 55 to participate in the first of three one-year missions.

The 3D-printed, 1,700-square-foot environment is situated at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It has a work area, a kitchen, two bathrooms, private bedrooms, a work area, and a social area.

NASA stated in a statement that the habitat would “simulate the challenges of a mission on Mars, including resource constraints, equipment failure, communication delays, and other environmental stressors.”

The four volunteers will participate in simulated spacewalks, robotic operations, habitat maintenance, personal hygiene, exercise, and crop growth in the simulated Martian environment as though they were on a mission to Mars.

Grace Douglas, lead scientist for NASA’s Advanced Food Technology research effort at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, stated in a statement, “The analog is critical for testing solutions to meet the complex needs of living on the Martian surface.” Reenactments on Earth will help us comprehend and counter the physical and mental difficulties space travelers will look before they go.”

NASA hopes to eventually send humans to Mars and possibly establish a sustainable presence of astronauts in habitats on Earth’s neighboring planet with the assistance of its international partners. Mars is a hot, dry desert with a thin atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide and freezing temperatures in the winter. The space agency wants to be ready for the challenges that lie ahead because those extraterrestrial factors are likely to make astronauts’ time on Mars somewhat challenging.

Douglas stated, “The simulation will enable us to collect data on cognitive and physical performance to provide us with more insight into the potential impacts of long-duration Mars missions on crew health and performance.” At last, this data will assist NASA with settling on informed choices to plan and make arrangements for a fruitful human mission to Mars.”