Russia and ESA are just finishing up a 500-day simulated Mars mission here on Earth, and now Roscosmos, Russia’s Federal Space Agency is considering taking it to the next level and conducting a “virtual” Mars mission experiment in space, on board the International Space Station. This tentative plan would have two cosmonauts and/or astronauts staying on board the ISS for up to 18 months, matching the potential length of a manned Mars mission.
“We are interested in staging such an experiment in actual conditions of zero gravity,” Roscosmos’ deputy head Vitaly Davydov told Itar-Tass. While there are so specific plans at this time, Davydov added that such a project might be possible after 2014, since the schedule of ISS work and its crews for the next two years have already been plotted.
As of now, crews on the space station usually stay no longer than 6 months, to avoid long-term bone and muscle mass loss, as well as keeping the crews “fresh.” Davydov said Russia cannot make such a decision unilaterally, and would have to get consent from other international partners in the program.
The major issues in doing this would be how the costs would be divided by the 16 countries involved the ISS program and which countries the astronauts would be from. If such a mission would be approved, it will be interesting to see how much interest there is by astronaut and cosmonaut corps for staying in space for 18 months.