The best way to prepare and plan for life on Mars is to try living like you are already there.
Teams of volunteers, selected for their astronaut-like capabilities are selected from hundreds of applicants and spend four to eight months in a small solar-powered dome that can house six people.
The domes have a living room, sleeping quarters, kitchen, bathroom, laboratory, simulated airlocks and “dirty” work areas. Team members spend the time in close proximity and can only go outside wearing a space suit.
The team can communicate and access the internet, but with a 20 minute delay to simulate how communication will work between Mars and the Earth. Communication with mission control is only through email and posts – not real time.
So, is this your idea of heaven or hell? Being cooped up with five other people living and working in close proximity and little privacy and alone time.
The researchers have learned a few things about managing such a social environment over the different experiments they have run.
Boredom is the enemy. You need to have something to work on and occupy you. Lots of books help.
The mix of the crew is crucial. You need a balance between introverts and extroverts. Distasteful jobs, like cleaning out the toilets, earn rewards like extra time in the shower.
Experiments like these are a hot-bed of innovation. For example, the mission to get us to the moon resulted in inventions such the CAT scanner, cordless tools and scratch resistant glasses.
The Mars experiments may lead to a better understanding of what we need to live in low-power, off-grid environments without sacrificing comfort entirely.
If nothing else, it will make camping with the kids a lot more interesting if you can pretend you are living on Mars.