Mars is an incredibly harsh environment: global-covering dust storms, toxic terrain, thin atmosphere, extremely low temperatures. To push the concept of human exploration of the Red Planet, much more research needs to be done on the adaptation of human physiology to such hard conditions. After 6 months of travel in microgravity condition, having dealt with the shock of a planetary reentry and landing, the first crew on Mars will face the challenge of recovery and rehabilitation, but also the need to assess and mitigate independently any possible health emergency throughout the mission.
To enable these opportunities, we are organizing SMOPS (Space Medicine OPerationS), an analogue mission that will take place at the MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station), a research facility owned and managed by The Mars Society in Utah, USA. For two weeks in isolation, our analogue astronauts will test different technologies and operational scenarios in the field of space medicine, in preparation for future human missions to Mars.
The conditions offered by the MDRS are in many ways similar to the ones that can be found in a possible Mars habitat: desertic environment, crew isolation, spacesuit simulators for external activities, limited living spaces and resources (water and food), local energy (solar panels), and food production (greenhouse). This will allow analogue astronauts on Earth to simulate, as best as possible, the difficulties that human crews will face on the martian surface.