Lonely Planet Writer

Budding space tourists can experience life on Mars in a cave in Spain

If you’ve ever wanted to experience life on Mars without, you know, the significant challenges of actually getting to Mars, you’re in luck. A Spanish company is aiming to bring together science and tourism by creating a mock settlement in a cave in Cantabria to simulate what it’s like to live in a human colony on Mars.

Astroland will attempt to recreate life on Mars in a cave in Cantabria, Spain. Image by Astroland

This summer, while people are hiking through the rolling, green hills of Cantabria or relaxing in one of the region’s many resorts, underneath them, a group of wannabe space tourists will be shuffling about in dim light, preparing for life on Mars. Astroland opens to participants in June in the caves of Cantabria where a mock Mars settlement will be created to simulate a human colony on the Red Planet.

The idea is to send 100 space tourists to Astroland this year, divided into 10 missions with 10 people each. Participants must be over 18, willing to pay €10,000 (£8714) per person for the experience and be okay with not seeing natural daylight for at least three days. Signing up doesn’t automatically guarantee you a place however, you’ll have to first undergo a series of interview questions to assess your suitability.

The experience will take place below the lush green landscape of the Cantabrian hills. Image by Shutterstock

Once selected, you’ll prepare for your ‘Mars’ mission by learning some of the necessary skills to cope with life on the hostile planet such as caving, climbing and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). Psychology and physical coaching are also included. Once you’re ready, the mission will take place in the caves of the Arredondo region. Above ground it looks nothing like Mars but below ground it’s a different story as Astroland has created its very own space station underground against a pretty convincing Mars backdrop.

“The Martian environment is very hostile with low temperatures, strong winds and high levels of solar radiation, which means the most suitable way of maintaining human life is… under the Martian surface,” said Astroland CEO, David Ceballos. “These Cantabrian caves are the perfect location for similar conditions for these trials.”

Participants will undergo training to prepare them for life on the ‘Red Planet’. Image by Astroland

The training system has been designed in accordance with the methodologies of the European Space Agency (ESA). Participants will wear polymer suits and nappies (to ensure human impact on the caves is kept to a minimum) and sleep in pressurised cabins, while performing day-to-day tasks, such as growing their own food, in challenging conditions.

“It will be an exclusive adventure for those chosen, for scientific purposes but also emotional purposes, from which we hope to take new learnings in order to improve today’s society and contribute our knowledge to allow people to live on other planets in the future,” added Ceballos.

You can find out more about Astroland here.