Here we are. Right now, you should have gone through my poor english and already read the forenote, the world of Krysalis and the article about ALTA, the european company collaborating with the US Army.
Following the Constellation project, USA wants to bring man back on the Moon, and then head straight to Mars. We’re in 2019, and ALTA is running many experiences for US Air Force, NASA and US Army ; one of them is the biggest and longest life-on-Mars simulation, entitled « project Krysalis ». 12 people live in a Dome (in fact, a giant structure deployed from two modules), during two years and four months. The project must be kept secret : China is currently financing its own Mars program – the same situation already occured in the 60’s with Russia and the race for the Moon.
In order to keep the Krysalis project secret, it all takes place in Area 51, in Nevada : the team (6 men, 6 women, military and civilians) simulate the trip to Mars during four months (staying in one module), and then deploy the Dome and its greenhouse. The simulation has been designed to serve as a « rehearsal » for the real trip : the whole installation and its equipment can be customized, modified, if the team feels it productivity can be increased.
For example, the artificial intelligence system that runs the Dome, Charity (also know as Pandora), « learn » during the simulation, so it will be fully efficient during the real trip (to give you an idea of the technologic level, Charity is a limited artificial intelligence, like the one you can see in Sunshine, by Danny Boyle).
There is other examples of projects, some of them not having anything to do with space travel. Because of the top secret ranking of the project, ALTA and the US Army decided to give the team work to keep them busy, from surgeon robots to experimental weapons. Each team member is assigned to a project by the gamemaster, the only team member to have regular contacts with the outside world and ALTA.
In order to simulate life on Mars, the Dome is set in the centre of a 30 kilometers desert zone ; beyond are the headquarters, in an old military installation. Communications between the Dome and the headquarters are delayed 20 minutes, in order to simulate Earth-Mars distance. Each month, the gamemaster communicate directly with ALTA, reporting all incidents/results/observations… Until the day no one answer…