Who says you need to go to Mars to know what life could be like over there? Some places on Earth are apparently good enough to simulate the experience. And that’s exactly what a team of experts from Mars Society have done – recreated life on the red planet by dressing in space suits and living in isolation in a rocky Utah desert. The group of researchers lives there on a space research base, surviving on food rations, conducting research experiments and showering just once in three days.
The area surrounding the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is quite similar to the atmosphere on Mars – hot, windy, red, and rocky. Just like in the science fiction movies, every time the team needs to leave the station, they have to pass through an air lock. The team consists of four men and two women, living in a cramped, two-storey hut 40 miles from the nearest town of Hanksville. The crew sleep in small pod-like beds, have very limited contact with the outside world and a very slow internet connection to send only a few e-mails a day.
Most of their communication is with ‘mission control’, who monitor and record data about the crew’s lives every two weeks. This includes details like psychological status, food intake and exercise. According to 27-year-old Mission Commander Lara Vimercati, who is also a NASA biologist, “Everything we do each day must be as though we are on another planet. We have to go through an air lock procedure and suit up before we have any contact with the outside.” Visitors are sometimes allowed; they need to travel to MDRS on a slow buggy (only 5 mph), down an unmarked path filled with rocks.