European Space Agency Starts 18-Month Mars500 Mission Simulation
The European Space Agency, working in collaboration with Institute
of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, initiated Mars500, the first
full-length simulated mission to Mars. The mission is to virtually fly
to Mars in 250 days, divide in two groups, simulate a landing and
exploration of the Martian surface for a month and then end with a
simulated return to Earth in 230 days, in the team's special facility
imitating an interplanetary spacecraft, lander and Martian terrain. The
experiment will end in November 2011, the space agency said.
Diego Urbina and Romain Charles from Europe, Sukhrob Kamolov, Alexey
Sitev, Alexandr Smoleevskiy and Mikhail Sinelnikov from Russia and Wang
Yue from China face a mission that is "as close as possible to a real
space voyage," the ESA said. They will live and work like astronauts,
eat special food and exercise in the same way as crews aboard the
International Space Station (ISS). Only electricity, water and some air
will be fed into the compartments from outside.
The astronauts will normally have eight hours of work, eight hours of
free time and eight hours of rest a day, with the "weekends" free. The
ESA noted the physiological aspects of the experiments are of great
interest to the experiment's observers. Their bodies are expected to
start to adapt to new conditions -the ESA said a closed environment
with restricted space could quickly lead to poor physical condition.
While the crew needs to exercise up to two hours a day, they can shower
only once a week.
The agency is calling the experiment "the ultimate test of human
endurance" and said the physiological challenges faced by humans
trapped for almost 18 months in a small container would be a key part
of the test. "The facility is not a spacecraft, but it uses many
systems that will be used in some form when developing a real craft for
a Mars mission," a release from the ESA explained. "Testing these in
realistic conditions is important. The crew has been trained to repair
every single bolt of their -craft' and outside help will be given only
in extreme situations."
Throughout their mission, Urbina and Charles, the ESA-selected
crewmembers, will send diary updates and videos to ESA's Mars500 site.
Their first post, "Goodbye Sun, goodbye Earth, we are leaving for
Mars!" finds both astronauts upbeat and excited about the experiment
and the benefits it might bring to humankind. "We are so pleased to be
part of such a nice crew and such an important experiment, and hope
that some of you, among our readers, will actually be the ones who will
step on Mars in the future," wrote Urbina. "The internationalism of
Mars500 does not only involve the crew, but also the researchers who
come from so many countries that I could easily surpass the word limit
in this blog post. This is for sure a strong point of Mars500, as no
human flight to the Red Planet will be possible by one single Nation.
Knowing how to collaborate at all levels is fundamental."