NASA Plans To Simulate Mars Mission Operations on the ISS

Press Release

NASA is attempting to simulate a mission to Mars on the International Space Station before the actual journey. Although the mission can never be genuinely replicated before the first landing, the agency is aiming to equip astronauts with as much experience as possible through mimicking as much detail as possible. NASA is, therefore, strategizing on how to run the practice sessions without interfering with the core operations of the station.

Michelle Rucker, an engineer at the Exploration Mission Planning Office of NASA, said during the International Astronautical Congress in October that the agency aims to picture how and where the mission will be executed on mars and to practice some operations that would be required on the actual manned mission, reducing some of the difficulties expected to face the crew. The practice sessions, called analogue missions, have so far been done on earth successfully, with the most intriguing ones being the ones that isolate crew members on an exotic location on Earth. The analogue missions held on earth have been inconclusive, however, because specific characteristics of space travel cannot be experimented upon.

According to Julie Robinson, the International Space Program chief scientist, every analogue has its advantages and disadvantages, and that the station will be watching what works and what cannot be done safely on the space station. NASA had tasked scientists and astronauts to research on the possible tests that could be done on the ISS in preparation for Mars. The team has been evaluating the results and how they can best be implemented, ignoring the limits governing the space station. Some ideas cannot be immediately implemented, such as recreating modules for isolation that would be experienced in a real space mission. The station would also not be ideal for some of the constraints of the mission since the ISS experiences constant travel in and out, unlike the Mars-bound spacecraft, added Robinson.

The station has, however, been found to be suitable for investigating aspects such as how many and for how long astronauts can survive on space since the mission is estimated to take around three years. The team aims to have astronauts stay in space for more than the normal six months to investigate how the body responds to the space environment for that long. The test will also enable NASA to prepare supplies for the mission better since they are going to travel far from any resupply missions.

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