This is a bit weird, and there’s more detail on Mashable, but essentially a six-person team lives in the ‘Mars Desert Research Station’. Crews pay $500 to rent the module and pretend they were living on the Red Planet. I suppose it might be fun for a little while and, though the psychological impact probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as close, at least you’re away from the distraction of social media.
It might be interesting for role-play purposes, but I hate that the Mars Society is spending their money on something they’ve been doing for years (they were doing something similar in the Arctic for a while before this). If we do get a manned mission to Mars program sometime this side of 2040, none of this is going to actually help, since they’ll have plenty of time to do it again with the actual hardware they’ll use for the mission.
If they really wanted to push their ideas better in terms of testing, they’d save up some money, create a sealed room with Martian simulated atmospheric conditions, and then see if the fuel-making machine that’s the foundation of Zubrin’s Mars proposal would actually work under those conditions.
It’s very true that none of this is actually going to help. I guess it’s more of a kind of wish-fulfilment, dream kind of thing. But I’d never thought for RPGs!