UC Davis Nurse Heads Into Year-Long NASA Mission Studying Life On Mars


By Marlee Ginter

A local woman is learning what it's like to live on Mars right now and she didn't even have to leave Earth. Alyssa Shannon is an Advanced Practice Nurse with UC Davis Health. She was one of only four people selected by NASA to take part in a one-year analog mission to simulate living on Mars.

"I was driving when they gave me a call, and I had to pull over. I was so excited I had to pull over," said Shannon. "One of my childhood dreams was to be an early Mars colonist."

Dr. Suzanne Bell is the lead of the Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Center. She's keeping an eye on the crew as they start their mission.

"We've really carefully chosen this crew to to succeed wherever is possible and so it really for us is going to be realistic data," said Dr. Bell. "So far, It's going great. There's a lot to learn before you go in the habitat. Each crew member will have specially designed role."

The Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog -- or CHAPEA Habitat -- is part of NASA's mission to prepare for human exploration of Mars. It will put the limits of human endurance truly to the test. It's a tight space they'll be living in for roughly a year, but it comes with everything you might need to live on Mars and there's even red sand outside.

"There's a lot of unknowns with how people can both live and work for extended periods in isolation and confinement live under restricted food conditions," said Dr. Bell.

Each crew member is given different mission activities to complete, including simulated spacewalks, robotic operations and maintaining their habitat. Shannon is serving as the crew science officer by navigating communication challenges and equipment failures. She's been preparing for months and even got her Christmas shopping done before taking off. She admits it's a challenge, but it's more than a mission. It's a dream that's out of this world.

"Obviously, we're not at the position of having colonies on Mars just yet, but I'm so glad I'm going to help us with this one small step and giving us there," said Shannon.


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