Have you heard of the term “analog astronaut” before?  It’s a special term for someone simulating a deep space mission here on Earth. They are people just like you and me, or they might be a specialist in a particular area. Analog astronauts simulate long-duration space missions, in geographically similar areas to the real missions  that are being planned for future Moon and Mars crewed explorations. A crewed mission to Mars for example, would involve astronauts being away from Earth for two-plus years. Mission planners need to know answers to the questions of, what is the optimal number of crew members? What nutrition needs and exercise regimens will be of most benefit? What psychological factors could hinder the crews performance? Depending on the organization conducting the analog mission, there may be certain health and experience requirements of the applicants. https://www.nasa.gov/analogs/what-are-analog-mission

Their are several advantages to having these simulated missions on Earth. The habitat structures do not need to be the real thing, they can be far simpler structures. The important thing is that they are the same interior dimensions as the proposed real vehicle or habitat. The extra-vehicular activity (EVA) suits do not need to be fully pressurized real space suits that cost millions of dollars. Analog suits can be a jumpsuit setup with a helmet, gloves, boots, gloves and communication headset. Photos from analog missions can be seen at the Hawaiian Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) https://www.hi-seas.org/

Analog astronauts are asked to keep a daily video diary to aide the researchers in tracking the moods and behavior of the participants during the mission. Kids can get a feel for an along mission with fun activities that are easy to set up at a library or at home. Build a Moon Habitat activity can be made from rolled newspapers and tape. Participants learn about the strength in using poles arranged in triangle patterns to provide strength when constructing domes, airlocks or hallways. How much room will you need for your habitat? What is the purpose of each structure you are building? https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/moon-habitat/en/

Many analog missions have their own mission patch that can show the goals of the mission, crew names and location where the mission takes place. If you would like to conduct your own analog mission simulation, a mission patch design challenge can be a fun activity. Participants can look at past mission patches for inspiration, make a list of the things they might want included, and do some sketches to get an idea of how the final version may look. A beginning code version of this activity using Tynker is https://www.tynker.com/hour-of-code/nasa-mission-patch-guide.pdf

A simpler paper version of the same activity is https://docs.google.com/document/d/1g67QZCzYIDjYH5sABxtiNsmxdkLQxvm5WvDj0sArVBM/edit

Experimenting with what you might eat on your mission can be fun, but first you need to learn a little about the considerations for preparing meals for space. https://spacecenter.org/space-food-from-creation-to-consumption/

Now that you have an understanding of some of the concerns selecting foods for a mission, try this activity https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/146852main_Food_for_Spaceflight_Educator.pdf

Now anyone can have an experience like an analog astronaut.