A year on Mars: a selection of space simulations on Earth


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Astronauts have been preparing for future flights to other planets for many years now. Some tests last for months and are carried out in strict isolation from the outside world.

Space agencies around the world are preparing for future exploration of other planets. To enable astronauts to work on the surface of the Moon and Mars, simulations are being developed for them with special conditions and limited communication with the outside world. RBC Trends tells what experiments are being carried out these days.

NASA: Mars and spacecraft simulations

The US space agency is conducting a series of experiments called Analog Missions to prepare astronauts for future exploration of asteroids, Mars and the Moon.


These experiments on long-term isolation of astronauts have been carried out since 2011. Thus, NASA is studying how people will work on the surface of the Moon and Mars. The agency designed the HI-SEAS Habitat dome with a living area of ​​110 square meters.

km. It includes small sleeping quarters for a crew of six and a kitchen, laboratory, bathroom, mock airlock and engineering bay. The dome is located on the slope of the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa, an hour’s drive from the nearest populated areas. Communication with the outside world is carried out through a special system that simulates communication on Mars with a 20-minute delay. Thus, as part of an experiment in 2017, six scientists spent a year in isolation.

They said that they lived in complete self-sufficiency, and could only go outside in special spacesuits. A total of five such experiments were conducted as part of the Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission.




NASA is conducting similar experiments in terrestrial habitats at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. However, they are intended to test crew performance in the confined space of a spacecraft during a proposed mission to Mars. Small habitat of only 60 square meters. m called Human Exploration Research Analog, or HERA , is designed as a spacecraft module with two compartments and a work area.

Teams of four work within it for 45 days. HERA allows us to study how crew members adapt to isolation, can perform scientific, operational and technical tasks, and cope with communication delays with the outside world of up to five minutes.



Finally, NASA is conducting a series of experiments that simulate humans staying on Mars for a year in the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog ( CHAPEA ) simulation. This is a habitable space of about 160 square meters. km, which was built in Houston. Elements of the space were 3D printed and include crew quarters, a kitchen and dedicated areas for medical, leisure, fitness, work and crop production, as well as a technical work area and two bathrooms.

Each mission involves four people. During the experiments, they practice spacewalks, conduct experiments, and scientists monitor their health. The first mission launched in 2023.


Roscosmos: simulation of flight to the Moon

Roscosmos is conducting similar experiments at the Ground Experimental Complex of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. As part of the SIRIUS (Scientific International Research In Unique terrestrial Station) project, astronauts live in a simulated spaceship, and researchers study indicators of their physical health and mental state.

This will make it possible to prepare crews for future long-term flights, including to the Moon. The duration of the missions was originally four months, but has now been extended to a year. The latest six-person experiment, which launched in 2023, simulates the main elements of a lunar expedition: a flight to the Moon, docking with a lunar orbital station, work in lunar orbit, and five landings of crew members to conduct operations on the surface of the satellite. Participants use suits with a virtual reality complex to exit the module, and communication with them is carried out with a delay of five minutes.

NEC is a whole complex of isolated modules, inside each of which unique temperature and pressure indicators are installed. It includes experimental installations EU-50, EU-100, EU-150 and EU-250 for scientific research and medicine, an alien surface simulator, rooms for eating, rest and personal hygiene.


Europe: work on the surface of Mars

The Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) creates its own simulations to work on the surface of other planets. Thus, on March 12, 2024, the Austrian Space Agency, in cooperation with the Armenian Space Agency, launched a mission to simulate the Martian environment within the framework of the AMADEE-24 project .

Six astronauts worked at the Armash test site in the Ararat region of Armenia until April 5. They lived in an isolated habitat and only left it wearing prototypes of the OeWF Mars suit.

Communication with the Mission Support Center in Vienna was delayed by ten minutes to simulate the distance from Earth to Mars. The mission conducted robotics and geology experiments, using drones and rovers to explore and map the environment, take soil samples and transport cargo.

The experiment took place in difficult weather conditions , and during a severe thunderstorm the roof of the shelter was even damaged. However, the OeWF said that the mission participants were able to successfully carry out most of the experiments.


Simulations of the lunar surface and spacecraft

Space agencies around the world create various simulations that allow astronauts to test the capabilities of future spacecraft and visit environments that are as close as possible to the conditions of other planets.

Thus, the European Space Agency, together with the French-Italian aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space and the Spanish aerospace business group GMV, created a flight simulator Loop Flight Vehicle Engineering to simulate the landing of a module with people on the Moon. It was installed at the German Aerospace Center and has already begun to be used for training astronauts.

The simulator consists of a robotic arm with an attached flight deck capsule, which is equipped with virtual reality technologies. Astronauts are asked to go through critical scenarios associated with different stages of the flight, such as landing on an uneven surface or switching to manual control due to a technical failure. The project became part of preparations for the creation of the international lunar space station Lunar Gateway.


And NASA has developed several simulations that simulate the lunar surface to train astronauts to navigate the lunar surface properly. The first such platform was small – 4x4x0.5 m – and was filled with a lunar regolith simulator. Now a larger site (19x4x0.3 m) has been created at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Surrounded by black walls and illuminated by a special system, it simulates the harsh conditions of the lunar surface. Astronauts move around the site in spacesuits that are not completely sealed but have the same weight as their real-life counterparts.

NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are conducting tests called Desert Research and Technology Research ( D-RATS ). As part of these experiments, two astronauts live and work in NASA’s pressurized rover prototype to prepare for future missions of the US Artemis lunar program.

The tests are being carried out in Arizona, at the Black Point site of the San Francisco volcanic field. The terrain allows teams to simulate conditions reminiscent of the Moon’s South Pole, where astronauts are planned to land.





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