What does a human need to live on the Moon or Mars someday apart from rockets and stuff?
For astronauts, or for those who want to pretend to be one, ‘spaces’ are being built on earth where conditions approximating the intended destination (Moon, Mars or a space station) are created. While you may not have conditions like weightlessness in these dwelling units, there will be plenty of make-believe features to fool you into trusting that you’re very far from home — like the ‘Mars-inside-a-tent’, pictured here.
These ‘analogue space facilities’ — there are around 20 of them — are not for fun. While training astronauts, they also help researchers study things like how people behave in confined isolation in hostile and unpleasant settings. Studies even look at how their gut microbiome changes, stress levels and immune responses, from samples of spit, urine, blood and faecal matter.
Some of these analogue facilities are in desolate places on earth—one 1,200 sq ft analogue station is on a mountain desert in Hawaii, 8,200 ft above sea level, which resembles the Martian landscape. To give a real, out-of-the-world feel, dwellers sometimes communicate on the phone that sends and receives signals with a 20-minute delay; they eat frozen foods and compost their own poop. Tough life indeed. One lady volunteer, who lived in confinement in a Russian analogue facility for 8 months, had difficulty in re-integration, upon coming out, an article in Undark notes.