Six Astronauts to Begin 520-Day Mock Flight to Mars

Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Isolation facility at the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow (photo: ESA)

To better understand the psychological effects of sending men on a mission to Mars, six astronauts are embarking this week on a 520-day “voyage” that involves locking them in a simulated spacecraft located in a warehouse outside Moscow.

The European Space Agency and Russia’s Institute of Biomedical Problems have organized the experiment involving astronauts from Russia, China, France and Italy. The men will spend their days without access to telephones, Internet or natural light, breathe only recycled air and shower every 10 days. Their time will be broken down into eight-hour shifts between working on maintenance and scientific experiments, relaxing and sleeping. Their communication with mission control will be subject to 20-minute delays to simulate the actual time it would take to radio earth during a Mars mission.
Experts are curious to learn what psychological effects the isolation experiment will have on the astronauts. These could range from developing claustrophobia to forming unprofessional emotional bonds.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
A Space Odyssey of the Mind (by Jon Kelly, BBC News Magazine)
Mars500 (European Space Agency)


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