Canadian Biologist Kelly Haston to Make History with Year-Long Mars Mission: A Journey Beyond Imagination

In late June, Kelly Haston will join three other volunteers as they enter a specially designed Martian habitat in Houston, Texas. This habitat will serve as their residence for the next 12 months, simulating the conditions of living on Mars.


Canadian biologist Kelly Haston didn't envision living on Mars during her childhood, but she is now gearing up to dedicate a year to prepare for the extraordinary experience.

Summing up her involvement in a simulated long-duration stay on the Red Planet, Kelly Haston, a 52-year-old biologist, expressed, "We are just going to pretend that we’re there." By the end of June, Haston, along with three other volunteers, will embark on an extraordinary journey, stepping into a specially designed Martian habitat in Houston, Texas. This habitat will serve as their home for the next 12 months, simulating the conditions they would encounter on Mars.

"It still sometimes seems a bit unreal to me," she laughs.

NASA's Behavioral Study for Mars Missions

NASA's thorough selection process evaluates crew behavior in isolated environments, setting the stage for future missions. Participants will face equipment failures, water constraints, and unforeseen challenges. Communication delays of up to 40 minutes, caused by Earth-Mars distance, will isolate them further.

Expressing both excitement and a sense of realism, the research scientist, who qualified for the program due to her permanent residency in the United States, stated, "I'm very excited about this, but I'm also realistic for what the challenge is."

Inside Mars Dune Alpha: Living Space and Simulated Exploration

The Mars Dune Alpha, a 3D printed facility covering 1,700 square feet, includes bedrooms, a gym, common areas, and a vertical farm for sustainable food production. Visiting the habitat, Haston expressed surprise at its spaciousness. An outdoor area, separated by an airlock, will serve as a Mars-like environment for simulated spacewalks. The area is currently covered with red sand, providing an authentic experience without direct exposure to open air. The crew, including Mohawk Nation member Haston, eagerly anticipates the thrilling "spacewalks" while wearing their suits.

Bonding, Training, and Self-Sufficiency in Simulation

The mission comprises four individuals—an engineer, an emergency doctor, a nurse, and Kelly Haston, the appointed commander—who were unfamiliar before the selection process but have now become acquainted. "The bond between us is already strong," affirms Haston, expressing her anticipation for further deepening these connections.

While their mission simulates an important exploration, the dynamics within the team as they handle everyday tasks like cleaning and meal preparation will play a crucial role.

Prior to entering the habitat, the crew will undergo a month of training in Houston. In the event of an injury or medical emergency, a teammate may need to depart the mission. However, procedures have been established for situations that can be managed by the crew, including how to communicate family-related issues from the outside world.

Embarking on Mars Mission: Challenges and Reflections

Managing separation from family concerns Kelly the most, as communication will be limited to email and occasional videos, but never live. She'll miss the outdoors and natural landscapes, reminiscing about her time studying frogs in Africa. Months spent in tents and cars without reliable phone coverage prepared her for potential isolation. As a specialist in stem cell treatments, she has worked in California. NASA's CHAPEA program consists of three planned missions, aiming to explore crew health and performance. The 2015-2016 Hawaii mission simulated life on Mars, although NASA wasn't in charge. The Artemis program aims to return humans to the Moon and pave the way for a Mars mission in the 2030s.