What book would you pack if you knew you had to live in an isolated Mars habitat for over a year?
Whatever you had in mind, it’s probably not what some of the folks at NASA were thinking when they set up this nifty library at the agency’s simulated Mars habitat. The 3D-printed habitat at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, has been set up to simulate the environment in a yearlong trip to Mars, per NASA.
Four people — scientist Kelly Haston, medical officer Nathan Jones, microbiologist Anca Selariu, and engineer Ross Brockwell — entered the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, or CHAPEA, Mars Dune Alpha habitat on Sunday. And they’ll remain there together in the 1,700-square-foot facility for 378 days.
If the thought of spending a year in a box with strangers isn’t enough to make you claustrophobic, wait until you see what the library contains.
Photographed in the Mars Dune Alpha’s capsule library was a book titled “Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Cave on Earth,” a novel by James Tabor. In the book, Tabor documents the journeys of Bill Stone and Alexander Klimchouk, adventurers who’ve traversed some of the world’s deepest caves.
And the experience is pretty frightening.
“Both men spent months almost two vertical miles deep, contending with thousand-foot drops, raging whitewater rivers, monstrous waterfalls, mile-long belly crawls, and the psychological horrors produced by weeks in absolute darkness, beyond all hope of rescue,” reads the book’s Amazon listing.
A Publishers Weekly review is equally interesting.
“Will keep the reader glued to their seat with dangers galore, including deadly falls, killer bacteria, abrupt burial, asphyxiation and anxiety in an underground world without light,” says the review.
There is also “Space Physiology”, by Jay C. Buckey. This book makes perfect sense. Also in the collection is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni, which might be useful considering the four-people-in-a-box-for-a-year predicament.
The team will have plenty of ways to occupy their time beyond reading, too.
For one, they’ll be carrying out experiments and trials to simulate future Mars explorations in a sandbox filled with red sand. These experiments include “simulated spacewalks, robotic operations, habitat maintenance, personal hygiene, exercise, and crop growth,” per NASA.
“The simulation will allow us to collect cognitive and physical performance data to give us more insight into the potential impacts of long-duration missions to Mars on crew health and performance,” Grace Douglas, the CHAPEA project’s principal investigator, said in April.
“Ultimately, this information will help NASA make informed decisions to design and plan for a successful human mission to Mars,” Douglas added.
Representatives for NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider sent outside regular business hours.
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