Six scientists and technical experts “landed on Mars” on Friday, or rather, a secret and isolated site near Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel to participate in the D-Mars Project, a first-of-its-kind simulation in Israel in conjunction with the Israel Space Agency and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space.

From Feb. 15-18, participants will be disconnected from the world, conduct experiments, live in a structure designed to be compatible with conditions on Mars, and will move around wearing space suits. The purpose of the project is to research and simulate possible life on Mars in the near future.

“Space agencies around the world are already busy with preparations for the journey to Mars and [finding] solutions to the multitude of technological challenges on the way to getting there,” said ISA head Avi Belsberger.

“Among the challenges people are trying to solve: building a spaceship and engine suitable for the lengthy journey, the effects of cosmic radiation on human beings, shipping and erecting a structure there, life in a small and isolated group, communication with earth and more,” he said. “Israel has already contributed to preparing for the mission to Mars, and in the technological developments to protect people against radiation.”

Mars’ simulations take place in a small number of places around the world. A large simulation is currently underway in Utah, where Weizmann Institute of Science research student Roy Naor was sent by the ISA to represent Israel.

Mitzpe Ramon, in the Negev Desert, is considered one of the only places on the planet with conditions relatively similar to those on Mars. The area resembles Mars in terms of its topography, geology, aridity, appearance and isolation.