Mock Mars flight mission launched in Moscow

Mock Mars flight mission launched in Moscow

31 Mar, 04:24 PM

A mock space flight to Mars has been launched in Moscow Tuesday. Its participants will spend over 100 days locked up at a Russian research center.

The experiment at the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems will allow doctors to study the psychological impact of full isolation on the six volunteers’ stress, hormones, sleep and mood.

The two Europeans and four Russians will not be allowed to leave the facility until their mission ends, AFP reports. They will be allowed to take personal effects like books, laptops and DVDs into the facility but will otherwise be sealed away from the world.

According to the strict rules for the experiment set out by the Institute, the volunteers can only quit the capsule if they have decided to pull out of the experiment for good.

"The evacuation of individual members of the crew due to illness or personal wish is comparable to the 'death' of the cosmonaut," a mission statement ran.

The institute said the main problem for a manned mission to Mars is ensuring the full autonomy of the crew for the year-and-a-half round trip.

As with a real mission, the supplies for the expedition have been painstakingly worked out in advance and no additional goods will be allowed to enter the capsule once the experiment starts.

"The crew will themselves resolve all problems and uncomfortable situations which do not require the evacuation of crew members," an Institute source said.

In a bid to exactly simulate possible scenarios of a manned mission, communications with a mission control center and loved ones outside will be subjected to a time delay of 20 minutes.

The 550 cubic metre (19,500 cubic feet) facility is made out of three modules - one for storage of food, one "medical module" that can be used to isolate a sick participant if necessary and a unit where the participants will live.

There, each participant will have a tiny individual bedroom a maximum of 3.2 square metres (34 square feet) in area which have been minimally furnished with a desk, chair and small bed. The facility also has a small gym, complete with exercise bike.

Underlining the declared aim to simulate the exact conditions of a Mars mission, there is also a "landing module simulator" which the crew will occupy for the 30 day "orbit" around Mars.

The experiment is a joint project between the Institute and the European Space Agency (ESA) and will lay the path for an even tougher Mars mission simulation later in 2009.

At the end of the year, the partners are planning to send six more crews into the isolation facility for 520 days - the estimated duration of a return trip to Mars.

Tags: space, research

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