The question of how people can live and work together well on a mission to Mars may turn out to be one of the biggest challenges of deep-space exploration. To simulate the experience of a crew stuck inside cramped quarters under stressful conditions, a nonprofit is planning a one-year mock Mars mission in the Arctic.
The mission, to begin in July 2014, is being planned by the Mars Society, an organization dedicated to manned exploration of the Red Planet. Six crew members will spend a full year living inside the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS), a 25-foot-tall (7.6 meters), 27-foot-wide (8.3 m) cylindrical habitat on Devon Island in the high-latitude Canadian Arctic.
The crew will spend their time conducting field geology — in space suits, of course — and other science research, and performing maintenance on their equipment and habitat. The experience is meant to simulate a real Mars expedition more closely than past mock missions, which have been set under more comfortable conditions, and without such stringent research duties, Mars Society officials said.
"The duration, the harsh environment, actually doing the same activities as a Mars crew — this combination hasn’t been done before,” said Joe Palaia, FMARS director and crew commander of a monthlong mock Mars mission planned for the facility this summer.