May 23, 2023

APRN Chosen for NASA Mars Mission

APRN Chosen for NASA Mars Mission

Image: Alyssa Shannon

Nurses around the country are doing some really amazing things. UC Davis Health Advanced Practice Nurse Alyssa Shannon is doing something extraordinary. Shannon was recently selected to take part in NASA’s Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) mission. Along with three other crew members, Shannon will take part in a one-year analog mission that will simulate living on Mars.

The four-person crew will simulate everyday challenges of a real life human mission to Mars including resource limitations, possible equipment failures, communication delays, and other possible environmental stressors. Other team members include Kelly Haston (commander), Ross Brockwell (flight engineer), and Nathan Jones (medical officer). The team has two backups in case of emergency: Trevor Clark and Anca Selariu.

Shannon will be working as the crew science officer, conducting quality improvement projects, providing data management and data analysis. She first heard about the CHAPEA mission in August 2021 on the radio while driving to work. After doing a little research, she quickly realized that she fit all the criteria and decided to apply. 

As an APRN with experience in interventional cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, Shannon will leave for the mission at the end of May and will not return home until July 2024. Shannon has extensive experience in a variety of fields. Prior to becoming a nurse she was an elementary school teacher and continued her education becoming a cardiovascular clinical nurse specialist with a minor in genetics from UCSF.


“The time away will be hard, but the bigger mission is being able to help provide this invaluable research for space travel,” said Shannon. “In the future when humans actually land on Mars it will be so fulfilling [to] know that I played a small role in helping us get there.”

Image: Crew living areas

Mars Project

According to NASA, CHAPEA is a ground-based mission that will be conducted at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas starting in June. The team will live and work in a 3D-printed, 1,700 square foot quarters including private crew areas, a kitchen, living areas, work areas, and two bathrooms. Additionally, there will be a 1,200 square foot external environment that will be a complete replica of Mars including murals and red sand. 

NASA’s simulated Mars habitat includes a 1,200-square-foot sandbox with red sand to simulate the Martian landscape. The area will be used to conduct simulated spacewalks or “Marswalks” during the analog missions.

Image: Mars “Outdoor” Space

“Research gained during the CHAPEA mission will be used by NASA to inform risk and resource trades to best support crew health and performance while living on Mars,” Shannon said. “This research will provide their experts with valuable information that will help future Mars missions succeed.”

NASA explains that the habit will “be used by NASA to inform risk and resource trades to support crew health and performance while living on Mars during an extended duration mission.”

This short-term mission will help provide information for future Mars missions as the round-trip travel time between Earth and Mars is 21 months. This also will allow time for proper alignment of the planets for docking.  

“I was genuinely surprised to make it through the selection process,” she said. “When I was a child, I dreamed on being a colonist on Mars — obviously this hasn't happened, but I am so excited to participate in this way.”

Shannon and the rest of the crew members' journey to Mars can be followed on the Johnson Space Center’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages.

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