NASA seeking crew members to live on Mars - without leaving Earth

Crew members will live in a 3D-printed environment and be subjected to Mars conditions.
Crew members will live in a 3D-printed environment and be subjected to Mars conditions. Photo credit: Supplied

NASA is recruiting crew members for its 2022 mission to explore what life will be like on Mars - and volunteers won't even have to leave Earth to participate.

The US government agency is opening applications for four people to take part in the first of three Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHPEA) missions, each one a year-long Mars surface simulation.

During the mission the crew members will live and work in a 158m2 3D-printed module called Mars Dune Alpha where they will be studied to see how they respond to the conditions.

The mission is critical to test solutions that will be needed for Mars, said Grace Douglas, lead scientist for NASA's advanced food technology research effort.

"Simulations on Earth will help us understand and counter the physical and mental challenges astronauts will face before they go," they said.

The simulations will be based at NASA's Johnson Space Centre and the crew will face similar challenges to what they might on Mars, including equipment failure, communication issues, inhospitable environments and resource limitations.

"Crew tasks may include simulated spacewalks, scientific research, use of virtual reality and robotic controls, and exchanging communications," NASA wrote.

Unfortunately, Kiwis looking to escape New Zealand's brutal housing market for a year will also need US citizenship or permanent residence to apply.

Selection will be based on standard NASA criteria for astronauts.

Candidates will also need to be non-smokers aged between 30 and 55 years old and be proficient in English, as well as hold a Master's Degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) related field.

The entire selection process can take up to 13 months, NASA said. While compensation will be available for those selected, the agency hasn't detailed what that will be.

Among the risks of the recruitment process include "loss of subject privacy or confidentiality, minor discomforts and low level radiation exposure from x-rays during medical exams, and physical injury or a highly unlikely chance of death", NASA wrote.

NASA's first space-based step towards Mars is the Artemis program, where it will land the first woman and first person of colour on the moon to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before.

As well as NASA's programme, billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk has signalled his intention to create a human colony on Mars. His SpaceX company is attempting to land humans on the Red Planet by 2026.