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Keith Johnson, Deseret News
BYU mechanical engineering students Neil Hinckley (left) and Todd Reeder work on H.A.L., a mars rover prototype at the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah, June 1, 2007.

SALT LAKE CITY — NASA’s 2033 trip to Mars is so far away. If you wanted to prepare now, where can you look?

In the desert near Hanksville, Utah.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Mars Society established the Mars Desert Research Station in Southern Utah in 2001. Researchers, college students and scientists from around the world journey to the station to test various methods of survival that could be used on Mars.

The LA Times also notes interest in the experiment has spiked recently thanks to the conversation around exploration on the red planet.

“Last month, more than 500 college students from 10 countries took part in the station’s annual University Rover Challenge, aimed at creating the best vehicle for use on Mars,” the Times writes.

According to the research station’s website, the MDRS campus is made up of six structures that house laboratories, living quarters, greenhouses, workshops and a solar observatory. The Mars Society says missions to the MDRS last about two to three weeks and benefit from the nearby landscape, which is analogous to Mars’ geology.

Wired also reports that researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have used the facility to teach how to administer healthcare in space. Participants are given opportunities to respond to crises like simulated sickness, injury and death.

This program — like any other mission — adheres to rules that would be in place if you were actually on Mars, like requiring participants to wear spacesuits whenever they venture outdoors, according to Wired. This can lead to extreme situations, like when a man had to choose to lock his wife and several other crew members out of the habitat because they were “contaminated” with radiation.

According to University of Colorado professor Ben Easter, specific incidents are based on risk-assessment models that determine which medical emergencies would be most likely to pop up during space exploration.

"We then compare this information to the resources that would be required to address those conditions," Easter told Wired. "(We) use this comparison to make recommendations about the design of the medical system for exploration missions."

According to the MDRS Application page, groups of up to seven people can apply to work at the station for a field season. Some guidelines for applicants are as follows:

  • All must be healthy people, used to outdoor activity such as hiking and camping.
  • They should all be people capable of eating all normal types of food.
  • At least three must speak English well.
  • At least two members of the crew should be people who are very good at fixing mechanical or electrical equipment.
  • At least one of the crew should be a person capable of expressing himself or herself well in writing and be willing and able to send an account of each day's activity for publication on the internet.

Teams are expected to stay at the station for two weeks together. Applicants interested in acting as their crew’s commander must have served as a crew member in previous field seasons or scientific investigations.

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Crew members also aren’t required to work as a scientist. According to the MDRS application instructions, students of all disciplines are welcome to participate, but should be mature and enthusiastic about space exploration.

The expedition isn’t cheap, either — professional crews are expected to pay $1,500 for a two-week stay. Students and recent graduates only need to pay $1,000. Crews conducting research for outside groups are also expected to pay 10 percent of their payment on top of regular fees.