Simu-Mission to Mars

June 9, 2010

Brit Trogen

science in seconds blog brit trogen


Three Russians, an Italian, a Chinese man and a Frenchman were locked in a confinement module for 520 days. Sounds like the set-up for a semi-racist joke. But instead, it's the latest news to reach us from the European Space Agency, where six men have been locked up for the next year and a half on a simulated mission to Mars to conduct studies on human isolation.

It's the longest simulated space-flight to ever be attempted. And just like on a true Mars mission, there will be no alcohol, no vegetables other than those that have been grown on board, and the only contact allowed with Earth will take place via e-mail with a 20-minute delay.

The confinement module has been described as looking like a “Finnish sauna:” wood paneling, no windows, and only about three square meters of private space per person. And unlike what would occur on the true Mars mission, experiments with weightlessness and radiation are not being conducted this time around.

And hopefully, unlike the true Mars mission, this simu-mission, nicknamed Mars500, had another rather bizarre feature: no girls allowed. According to the director of Moscow’s Institute of Biomedical Programs, Boris Morukov, the limitations of the program would be more upsetting to women, adding that it’s “harder for a woman to be taken out of life and put in isolation.” This, despite the fact that over 1000 women applied for the program, seeming more than willing to volunteer themselves for the task. Another reason cited by the director that women might have a tough time? “You’re not allowed to talk on the telephone.” 

I guess the womenfolk will just have to wait until they build some kitchens and shopping malls on Mars (real or simulated) before we’ll have any real reason to pay it a visit. 



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