Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto and Hugh Gregory collect rocks outside the Mars Desert Research Station during a previous Mars simulation mission in Hanksville, Utah. A new crew of six is set to begin a new mission this month. Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto and Hugh Gregory collect rocks outside the Mars Desert Research Station during a previous Mars simulation mission in Hanksville, Utah. A new crew of six is set to begin a new mission this month. Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto and Hugh Gregory collect rocks during a simulated Mars mission in Utah. A similar project is getting underway in Israel. (Photo: George Frey/Getty Images)

Team builds habitat to simulate life on Mars

The shelter will be located near a 25-mile-wide, 200 million-year-old crater in southern Israel.

Fans of the 2015 movie "The Martian" starring Matt Damon got a pretty good glimpse of what it would be like to live on the Red Planet. He was forced to survive for four years on Mars' inhospitable surface – unable to breathe outside without a spacesuit and learning to grow potatoes indoors, just to name a few of the MacGyver-esque techniques he had to employ to stay alive.

Now a team of astronauts in Israel are taking that fiction and turning it into a reality. Called the D-Mars Project, they are building a mock space station in southern Israel – near the 200 million-year-old Ramon Crater, the 25-mile-wide star attraction of the Ramon Nature Reserve. It attracts geology enthusiasts, hikers and bikers from across the globe. "The environment of the Ramon Crater holds many similarities to the Martian environment in its geology, aridity and isolation, and has therefore been chosen to facilitate the simulated mission," the group said.

An artist's rendering of the D-Mars station. An artist's rendering of the D-Mars station. (Photo: Courtesy)

The first mission will take place Feb. 15-18 and will mimic actual life on Mars. The group will live as real astronauts. The daily routine, food and communication will be the same as it's expected to be during a real planetary mission, including wearing a space suit when venturing outside.

Below is a video of the crew building the modular station:

The station can house six astronauts, who will live in pods known as Japanese sleep capsules. Each pod is outfitted with a bed and a space for personal belongings to give a sense of privacy for each member of the team. The station was unveiled at an international space conference taking place this week at Tel Aviv University.

While this is the first-of-its-kind Mars simulator in Israel, it is something that people have been increasingly working on in recent years. In 2017, a group in Utah constructed a Mars-like habitat in the wilds which housed volunteer crews that lived there for two to three weeks at a time. NASA had its own simulation site in Hawaii.

Mars technology has been on the rise recently. NASA has built a humanoid robot called "Valkyrie" which they hope to send to the Red Planet on a fact-finding mission. Researchers at the University of Arizona have been developing a "Martian greenhouse" capable of not only feeding astronauts, but also supplying them with vital oxygen.

The Israel Space Agency signed up to help NASA with a journey to Mars. That partnership will include joint missions between the two countries as well as sharing facilities and personnel. Most important, NASA will now have access to Israeli-made Mars equipment, which is known for being light in weight and energy efficient.

A group called Mars One put out a call for volunteers who would be willing to permanently move to Mars. 200,000 people applied.

Florence Porcel wants to move to Mars Florence Porcel of France was one of 200,000 people from around the world who volunteered to move to Mars. (Photo: Martin Bureau / AFP/Getty Images)

Andy Weir, the author of the bestselling book that the Matt Damon movie is based on, cautions against non-professionals going into space. "I don't think if you're just a layman sent up to Mars you would be able to survive for very long," he told From The Grapevine. "It's an extremely dangerous environment. It would be like if you just took some eager, yet untrained, volunteer and sent them to Antarctica. They wouldn't be able to survive for very long either."

Asked what non-essential item he would bring with him on a trip to Mars, Weir thought about it for a moment and responded: "I would bring a big old collection of '80s synth music. That's what I grew up with and that's what I like."

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Team builds habitat to simulate life on Mars
The shelter will be located near a 25-mile-wide, 200 million-year-old crater in southern Israel.