Now you can experience life on Mars — in a cave in Spain

For the bargain price of R162k, tourists can join a mock space colony 1.5km underground

17 March 2019 - 00:03 By Elizabeth Sleith
Astroland invites tourists to 'Mars'.
Astroland invites tourists to 'Mars'.
Image: astroland

Ever dreamt of experiencing life on Mars without a clue of how to get there? Well, if you can at least make it to northern Spain, then you may be in luck. A Spanish company is creating a mock human settlement in a cave in Cantabria, intended to simulate what life could be like for a team of Martian pioneers.

Cantabria is an autonomous region on Spain's north coast, which generally draws outdoorsy types with its pristine beaches and forested mountains. But now a new crew of tourists will pay a reported €10,000 (R162,000) per person to sleep 1.5km underground, in a cave near the town of Arredondo.

They'll see no natural light for at least three days, sleep in pressurised capsules, wear polymer suits, and perform various experimental tasks in challenging conditions, such as trying to grow crops without any soil.

The new venture comes from a company called Astroland, which says its scientific-tourist offering has a loftier goal than pure entertainment: the underground expeditions will help provide scientific insights that could aid humanity to survive in hostile environments.

"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 CEO David Ceballos. "These Cantabrian caves are the perfect location for similar conditions for these trials."

The first expedition starts with 10 people on June 15. Among other skills, participants will be trained in leadership, climbing in caves, and hydroponic crop production — a soil-free form of farming.