A new adventure is beginning at Biosphere 2 north of Tucson. A four-person crew sealed themselves into an air-tight, pressurized habitat Thursday morning to learn more about what life might be like on another planet.
The crew members will spend the six-day journey researching different science objectives ranging from the social aspects of human space colonization to their physical and emotional wellbeing.
Director of Research for the Space Analog for the Moon and Mars Kai Staats first brought the idea to Biosphere 2 years ago.
“When we look at living on other planetary bodies, the moon, Mars and beyond, we're really looking at how we should be living on Earth today,” Staats said. “Aware of every breath we take, aware of every ounce of water that we consume, aware of our diets.”
This will be the first time in 30 years that a group of researchers will be sealing themselves in an analogue habitat at Biosphere 2. The first mission enclosed eight Biospherians inside the glass building for two years to measure survivability.
“The fact that it was originally used for a closed system experiment with humans in the loop,” Biosphere 2 Deputy Director and Chief Operations Officer John Adams said. “SAM is a perfect segue to leverage what was done historically and to build on that.”
This exploration combines technology from the first mission, like a prototype greenhouse, and reconstructs it to meet this mission’s needs.
These types of simulations are not new, however what makes this journey different is that the habitat is sealed and pressurized–something that not even NASA has been able to do.
“Why do we need a pressurized analog? If we go to the moon, there is no atmosphere, you can't open the window or you die,” Staats said. “You have to completely contain the humans and their breathable atmosphere inside of a pressure vessel.”
The 1,200 square foot habitat is equipped with a Mars yard that will be used for extravehicular activities, greenhouse, workshop, kitchen, common area and sleeping quarters. For Crew Commander Cassandra Klos, this will be her fourth analog, but she expects to still learn from this new mission.
“Like astronauts who go to the International Space Station or go into space, they have this overview effect, we're going to have a different kind of overview effect where our life will change a little bit,” Klos said. “You never come out the same person that you went in.”
The crew will exit the habitat next Tuesday.