Six men from Europe, Russia and China embarked on a 520-day mock mission to Mars, heading out to a crew module in a warehouse in Moscow and locking the hatches behind them today. The mission runs from June 2010 to November 2011, and like a real Mars mission, the crew will live and work like astronauts, eating special food and exercising the same way as crews aboard the International Space Station. Additionally their communications with their mission control and anyone else from the rest of the world will have a delay of up to 40 minutes.
A joint project between the Russian space agency and ESA, officials said the mood was serious, intense but very determined in the Mars500 facility at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow as the crew talked to the press and then walked into the modules.
Diego Urbina and Romain Charles from Europe, Sukhrob Kamolov, Alexey Sitev, Alexandr Smoleevskiy and Mikhail Sinelnikov from Russia and Wang Yue from China will have a mission that is as ‘real’ as possible. Their mission is to ‘fly to Mars’ in 250 days, divide in two groups, ‘land on and explore Mars’ for a month and ‘return to Earth’ in 230 days, in their special facility imitating an interplanetary spacecraft, lander and Martian terrain.
“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,” said Chinese participant Wang Yue, 27, ahead of the experiment.
In addition to evaluating many new technologies, Mars500 will test of human endurance and psychological issues of being confined in a small space and being away from family and friends and a normal Earth-life.
The crew will be keeping online diaries and provide video updates to ESA’s Mars500 site.
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.