Humans have entertained life on Mars for a long time. The idea has appeared in literature and pop culture time and time again. In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli ignited public imagination with his maps of Mars that showed grooves running through the landscape, and were mistranslated into English to refer to ‘canals.’ American astronomer Pervical Lowell then popularised this notion, in 1906 penning a book Mars and its Canals, which claimed that superior civilisations had once lived on the dusty planet. Of course, in 1897, appeared War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, one of the first science fiction books, which speculated upon a Martian invasion of England. In 1908 Alexander Bogdanov wrote Red Star, a book about a communist colony on Mars. Then came a host of terrible sci-fi films of varying degrees of entertainment. And we can’t leave out David Bowie’s Life on Mars. Today, the inimitable Elon Musk is scheming to take his Space X mission to colonise the red planet with the few effluent and adventurous (or desperate?) enough to make the trip. The goal is to get humans to Mars by 2024.
NASA has planned for humans to be able to reach the planet by 2030, a slightly more modest target. While this remains a future ambition, scientists are undertaking training for future missions. This involves simulated missions in remote parts of the Unites States’ landscape. Groups of scientists live in these play-pretend dual realities, such as the Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HISEAS), for up to 6 months at a time. There they undertake “scientific research,” maintain a strict discipline, and live in space station like conditions — all while dressed in fake space gear. It is a strange make-believe world. Photographer Cassandra Klos has been working on comprehensive research project into these space simulation locations over the past two and a half years. She has so far photographed three locations, and has even taken a part in couple of simulations herself. Her images are expansive and captivating. They definitely have a staged feel, akin to the documentation of film set backdrops. The portraits she takes of the participants are starkly different. Open and intimate, they betray her deep involvement in the project, and the real people who are placed in this odd environment.
Find more from the series on Cassandra Klos’ website. Her fictive project The Abductees is another interesting concept concerning a different kind of space travel.