Courtesy of Sian Proctor

Sian (sy-AN) Proctor recently spent time on Mars—but without leaving Earth. An analog astronaut, she spent four months living in a simulation of the Red Planet. Her mission took place in Hawaii and was funded by NASA, the U.S. space agency.

Proctor slept in a small dome and wore a spacesuit outside. She worked alongside five other crew members but couldn’t text or call her family.

Proctor talked with us about why her work is important.

Q: What’s the purpose of analog astronauts?
A: We’re testing space missions here on Earth. We’re learning how to make food in space. We’re seeing how people get along when they’re stuck together for a long time. We test things like spacesuits and robots to make sure they’ll work in space.

Q: Who can become an analog astronaut?
A: Anyone who loves space! Some are scientists, like me. Others are artists, teachers, or doctors. In communities on Mars or the moon, we’ll need all types.

Q: Did you learn anything that surprised you?
A: Many things we have to do to survive in space are good lessons for living on Earth too. We have to save water and electricity. We also can’t waste any food.