Friday, November 04, 2011

Simulated voyage to Mars concludes after 520 days

One of the most arduous challenges the crew of a future mission to Mars will face may be the be monotony over the long journey, and the challenges of being so far from earth and the rest of mankind.

Judging from the initial reports, the crew of the simulated Mars500 mission fared well in similar albeit earthbound conditions. Today the crew “returned,” after spending 520 days locked in a bus sized steel tube in a Moscow storage shed.

The mission was coordinated by the European Space Agency (ESA). According to Wired.uk, the crew was composed of six males; three Russians, one member each from China and France and an Italian-Colombian. For the simulated journey, they lived together in tight quarters similar to a travel trailer, adorned in the Russian style with wood paneled walls. The crew was able to leave the “craft” for two days to explore a simulated Mars surface. The return to earth took eight-months.

The Washington Post reported:

Patrik Sundblad, the project’s human life science specialist, said the mission was a success. “Yes, the crew can survive the inevitable isolation that is for a mission to Mars and back,” he explained. “Psychologically, we can do it.”

“They have had their ups and downs,” said Sundblad, “but these were to be expected. In fact, we anticipated many more problems, but the crew has been doing surprisingly well.”
August was the low point, he said. E-mail messages from the crew’s friends and family were delayed depending on how far they were from Earth, and in that month, those messages moved at their slowest rate. Spirits picked up substantially starting Sept. 15, as the capsule came, virtually, closer to Earth and messages started to flow in real time.

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