Men isolated to mimic Mars flight

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Space
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Following a similar experiment in 2009, six men entered an enclosed room in Moscow last Thursday to simulate a flight to Mars. The Mars-500 team consist of a Chinese man, a Frenchman, an Italian, and three Russians. Only the Chinese man, Wang Yue, is a trained astronaut. The six waved goodbye, crying “see you in 520 days’ time!”.

According to Wang, not being able to see their families and friends was one of the greatest challenges, although e-mail is allowed during the experiment. Both Wang and the Frenchman, Romain Charles, expressed pride to be part of this experiment. Wang said, “it will be trying for all of us. We cannot see our family, we cannot see our friends, but I think it is all a glorious time in our lives.”

The joint-effort project is being organised by the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP) and the European Space Agency; the goal is to study physical and psychological effects on would-be astronauts. All six men speak reasonable English; however, as Russian is another primary language for the simulated trip, Russian crew member Sukhrob Kamolov said body language will be used should they fail to understand one another.

Food for the volunteers will be rationed as it would in a real Mars mission. All supplies were supplied by China and loaded into the ‘simulated spacecraft’ prior to the beginning of the experiment. For backup, China is sending three mission support staff to Russia.

No women are included in the crew, excluding issues relating to a mixed-sex crew from the study. During a similar experiment in 1999, a woman complained that the captain attempted to kiss her.

Following 250 days of “travelling” to Mars, the group will split. Three will stay in the “spacecraft”, the other three going to the surface of “Mars”. Only two will actually leave the “spacecraft” to study the surface of “Mars”. After a month, the group will go through the return journey simulation, a 240 day trip. The men will follow a strict timetable, with 8 hours each of sleep, work, and leisure each day.



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