NASA Calls for Applicants for Two Mars Simulation Missions

The Mars Society plans to create a virtual reality platform of the MDRS as the first phase of the MarsVR Program.

NASA has put out a call for applicants for two Mars simulations. These simulations help provide information about the “human element” involved with a future crewed mission to Mars. They can help with important factors like the psychological component of long-term missions far from Earth and the importance of crew members’ compatibility.


NASA is seeking applicants for participation as a crew member during the first one-year analog mission in a habitat to simulate life on a distant world, set to begin in Summer 2023.

As NASA ventures farther into the cosmos, the astronaut experience will change. In preparation for the real-life challenges of future missions to Mars, NASA will study how highly motivated individuals respond under the rigor of a long-duration, ground-based simulation. The series of missions – known as Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog or CHAPEA 2 – includes three one-year Mars surface simulations based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The analogs will support research to develop methods and technologies to prevent and resolve potential problems on future human spaceflight missions to the Moon and Mars.

“The analog is critical for testing solutions to meet the complex needs of living on the Martian surface” said Grace Douglas, lead scientist for NASA’s Advanced Food Technology research effort at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Simulations on Earth will help us understand and counter the physical and mental challenges astronauts will face before they go.”

Each mission will consist of four crew members living and working in a 1,700-square-foot module 3D-printed by ICON, called Mars Dune Alpha. The habitat will simulate the challenges of a mission on Mars, including resource limitations, equipment failure, communication delays, and other environmental stressors. Crew tasks may include simulated spacewalks, scientific research, use of virtual reality and robotic controls, and exchanging communications. The results will provide important scientific data to validate systems and develop solutions.

NASA is looking for healthy, motivated U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are non-smokers, age 30 to 55 years old, and proficient in English for effective communication between crew and mission control. Crew selection will follow standard NASA criteria for astronaut candidate applicants.

A master’s degree in a STEM field such as engineering, mathematics, or biological, physical or computer science from an accredited institution with at least two years of professional STEM experience or a minimum of one thousand hours piloting an aircraft is required. Candidates who have completed two years of work toward a doctoral program in STEM, or completed a medical degree, or a test pilot program will also be considered.

Additionally, with four years of professional experience, applicants who have completed military officer training or a Bachelor of Science in a STEM field may be considered. If you have a strong desire for unique, rewarding adventures and are interested in contributing to NASA’s work in preparing for the first human journey to Mars, click here to learn more and apply. Compensation for participating is available. More information will be provided during the candidate screening process.

More information on CHAPEA 2 can be found on NASA’s website. The application can be found here.

Spaceward Bound (SWB)

NASA’s Spaceward Bound (SWB) initiative stands as a revered program aimed at educating K-12 instructors on captivating methods to immerse their students in space sciences, fostering career aspirations in the field. Originating from the visionary minds at NASA Ames, this pioneering project persists today, orchestrating Spaceward Bound field missions across diverse global locales.

Spaceward Bound Utah epitomizes a transformative 5-day workshop hosted at the Mars Desert Research Station, nestled outside Hanksville, Utah. Here, educators from Utah’s K-12 spectrum delve into a simulated Martian habitat, gaining invaluable insights into prospective Martian living conditions. The research facility, meticulously fashioned to emulate an embryonic Mars outpost, boasts a simulated spacecraft-cum-living quarters, an engineering bay, greenhouse, fully-equipped science laboratory, and twin observatories. The station’s sprawling Martian terrain, a geological mirror of the Red Planet, beckons exploration via electric vehicles and Mars-simulated spacesuits. Through immersive, on-site experiences, educators glean teaching paradigms replicable in classrooms, affording students hands-on engagement akin to future Martian endeavors.

Eager to recruit educators impassioned about simulating Martian existence, the Mars Society extends invitations to partake in workshops mirroring operational constraints envisaged on Mars. While preference tilts towards seasoned middle school science instructors, the program welcomes applications from educators across all levels. Collaboratively, participants craft classroom modules informed by their MDRS encounters, seamlessly integrating authentic Martian science with curriculum standards, thereby enriching student learning outcomes.

In its culmination year, the Mars Society orchestrates two cohorts of this transformative program. Cohort 6 convenes in October 2024 (exact dates pending confirmation), while Cohort 7 assembles from March 31 to April 6, 2025. Selected educators enjoy waived standard fees covering accommodations, sustenance, facility usage, and scientific apparatus. Moreover, travel expenses (up to $500) are reimbursed at school travel rates or actual expenditures, alongside provision of teaching materials and science supplies.

Educators harboring an ardent desire to participate in this SWB initiative are encouraged to reach out to Dr. Shannon Rupert, the Principal Investigator, at Submissions should encapsulate a succinct teaching background summary, coupled with a brief motivation for attendance and preferred session(s). While priority is accorded to Utah-based applicants, the program may extend consideration to select educators beyond state borders. Returning MDRS alumni are encouraged to reapply, ensuring continuity and enrichment of the program’s collective learning journey.

These simulations will provide valuable research and educational opportunities for NASA’s future missions and educators around the country. NASA is leading a return to Moon for long-term exploration. Through Artemis, NASA will land astronauts, including the first woman and the first person of color, on the surface of Moon. At the Moon, NASA and our partners study and explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. Lessons learned on and around the Moon will prepare NASA to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.