NASA Wanting To Simulate Mars Trip Aboard ISS
March 22, 2012

NASA Wanting To Simulate Mars Trip Aboard ISS

NASA said on Tuesday that it is considering a way to use the International Space Station as a dry run for a simulated manned Mars trip.

NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini said that before astronauts reach beyond low-Earth orbit, they will need to spend more than six months aboard the space station at a time, possibly over 16 months.

Russia and ESA performed a mock test flight to Mars (Mars500) that lasted 520 days at a Moscow research center.

During this trial, six men were locked in a steel capsule together, until half-way through when they "reached" Mars and were given the opportunity to stretch their legs on the fake Red Planet until "heading back to Earth."

The Russian test set a record for the longest duration a man has spent on a mission, although it didn't break any records for how long a man spent in space.

Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov holds the human endurance record for spending the longest time in space.

Polyakov spent 14 months in space aboard the Mir space station in 1994 and 1995, a feat NASA astronauts would have to break in order to simulate a Mars trip from the safety of the space station.

Suffredini said he doesn't expect the Mars simulation to take place any sooner than two to three years.

He said that physical and psychological questions will have to be addressed before anything of that sort is attempted.

If NASA wants the space station to be its guinea pig for the test, it will have to complete it before the ISS mission is considered over in around 2020.

Another complication astronauts could face for spending that long in space is eyeball deformation.

A new study found that astronaut´s eyeballs have become deformed after spending a long time in space.

The problems are similar to those caused by a rare medical condition that occurs when pressure inside the skull rises and presses on the brain and the back of the eyes.

Astronauts who had flown on space shuttle and International Space Station missions had been reporting changes to their eyesight, with some seeing worse and others seeing better than they had before.

“NASA has placed this problem high on its list of human risks, has initiated a comprehensive program to study its mechanisms and implications, and will continue to closely monitor the situation,” William Tarver, head of flight medicine at NASA´s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said after the findings were published.

Until this problem is better assessed, this could hinder NASA from sending any astronauts in space for a long period of time, whether it´s just a simulation or an actual mission.