Navy Medicine Microbiologist Joins NASA Efforts to Prepare for Mars Surface Missions

US Navy | 2023-06-27

By Naval Medical Research Command Public Affairs

HOUSTON, TEXAS: Lt. Anca Selariu, a microbiologist with Naval Medical Research Unit (NAMRU) INDO-PACIFIC, along with three other volunteers, began a simulated Mars mission on June 25 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Lt. Anca Selariu (far left), a microbiologist with Naval Medical Research Unit (NAMRU) INDO-PACIFIC, poses with other members of the NASA Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA)’s first mission. The CHAPEA missions, simulated expeditions to the surface of Mars, aim to collect critical data which will inform future human expeditions to space. (Courtesy photo/NASA)

The mission, part of NASA’s Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) Mars surface simulation program, will last 378 days. Selariu’s role in CHAPEA is the latest chapter in Navy Medicine’s 64-year history with NASA.

One of the greatest strengths in Navy Medicine is its diversity. Navy Medicine is comprised of people who provide expertise, know-how, and perspective shaped by their own personal journeys.

Selariu, a native of Romania, brings expertise in vaccines, prion transmission, gene therapy and infectious disease research to the CHAPEA mission. Her fellow volunteers include experts in engineering and medicine. Alongside her fellow volunteers, Selariu will conduct research to inform future expeditions to the surface of Mars.

The team will work in conditions closely replicating conditions on Mars and the facility and communication limitations the location would entail.
“We have very little information on how human life can adapt to such an exotic environment,” Selariu said. “There’s so much we still need to learn, so it’s incredibly important that we do this mission and get more data and information to the NASA scientists.”

Selariu expressed a deep gratitude to the Navy, both for facilitating her participation in the CHAPEA mission, and for the growth experiences it has provided over four years of service.

“It's an incredible privilege to serve,” Selariu said. “You wake up every day with the desire to benefit the other humans that surround you, your country, your planet and all life in the universe. I can't tell you how grateful I am to the Navy for making me the sort of person who is able to serve to such a higher purpose.”

“To contribute to the ultimate stage of discovery for humankind as a result of all of these accumulated experiences is just extraordinary,” Selariu added. “I hope this mission will be the steppingstone for the first humans on Mars someday.”

This mission is the first of three planned CHAPEA Mars simulations. Researchers will simulate the challenges of a human mission to Mars, including resource limitations, equipment failures, communication delays and other environmental stressors.

NARMRU INDO-PACIFIC, previously NAMRU-2, part of the Naval Medical Research & Development enterprise and headquartered out of Singapore, conducts research in cooperation with host nations in Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand to improve global health, ensure military force health protection and address infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever virus and gastro-intestinal pathogens.