In the 1960s, Apollo astronauts trained for their moon missions in Iceland. Today, members of the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) play Mars-colony in the striated deserts of Utah.
In this video from National Geographic, photojournalist Jim Urquhart tags along with Mars Desert Research Station Crew 138. The crew's five scientists are spending two weeks in a remote stretch of Utah desert on a simulated mission to Mars. Similar simulated missions have been conducted in the past, but Utah wins bonus points as a setting, for bearing such a close resemblance to an actual Martian landscape.
Unlike many of the crews that have come before them, Crew 138 comprises independent researchers who never met in person before the mission. The others tend to come as teams from universities with a related focus of study and have worked with each other in the academic setting.
All crews have to complete their research in the confines of the Mars Society's simulation operational guidelines. But as independents, this crew has other challenges, too. We have had to quickly get to know each other, and successfully form a team working in our assigned roles. One common bond has been food. We have so far enjoyed bacon and meatballs with pasta and homemade sauce. Luckily no one is a vegetarian or vegan, which could have thrown a wrench into the food plans. In a dire situation, that member would probably be eaten first.
Another source of common ground: enduring the nightly mission reports that have to be sent to the Mars Society, whose volunteers serve as "mission control" during the field season. These reports allow mission control to monitor the progress of the mission and the general health and safety of the crew.