6 men about to complete 520-day fake Mars mission in fake capsule

Contributed by
Dec 15, 2012

Many of us want to go to Mars, but the actual journey isn't as easy as stepping into a teleporter, and we have yet to build a spaceship capable of making the year-and-a-half trip. But it hasn't stopped the European Space Agency (ESA) from conducting an experiment on six volunteers to see if they're capable of making the year-and-a-half trip.

Six men (three Russians, one Chinese, one French, and an Italian-Columbian) have been locked in a mock space capsule the size of a bus in a parking lot in Russia for 520 days, the length of time scientists believe it should take a ship to venture to Mars and back.

According to Wired, ESA wanted "to see how real space crews would cope with confinement, daily activities and psychological stress on a lengthy trip to the red planet and back."

These men could eat only canned food, were allowed to shower only once a week and received delayed messages from friends and family based on how far away they were supposed to be from Earth.

Patrik Sundblad, the human life sciences specialist at the ESA, says the simulation has proved a complete success. "Yes, the crew can survive the inevitable isolation that is for a mission to Mars and back," Sundblad stated. "Psychologically, we can do it."

"They have had their ups and downs, but these were to be expected. In fact, we anticipated many more problems, but the crew has been doing surprisingly well," Sundblad said. "August was the mental low point: it was the most monotonous phase of the mission, and their friends and families were on vacation and didn't send so many messages."

But as the spaceship started its virtual return to Earth and the artificial delay was reduced so that message flow slowly returned to real-time, the crew's spirits rose.

This isn't the first time people have lived confined for great lengths of time in close quarters. But it's the first time it's been done to help us get to Mars.

The capsulenauts will open the door and set feet on terra firma on Nov. 4.

(via Wired)

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