Russia Wants To Repeat Mars500 Experiment In Space
May 2, 2012

Russia Wants To Repeat Mars500 Experiment In Space

Lee Rannals for

Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, said this week that the agency plans to repeat the Mars500 experiment that ended late last year.

The 520-day Mars500 experiment simulated a manned flight to the Red Planet on Earth, testing how astronauts might handle the endurance of a long mission like a trip to Mars.

Popovkin said Roscosmos wants to repeat the experiment, but simulate the mission to Mars on board the International Space Station so that scientists will be able to see the effects of the long-term mission while in space.

In a real space flight, people will be facing factors like radiation and zero gravity.  Radiation damages DNA and eye lenses and retina, which can lead to making mistakes in flight control.

Zero gravity is an important factor because it can cause a loss of calcium that weakens the cosmonaut's bones.

Boris Morukov, director of the project, said the possibility of conducting the experiment while on the ISS depends on the position of the Russia Space Agency.

“Proposals have been formulated and sent to other partners," Morukov told Voice of Russia. "A definite program has been worked out starting from training a crew. We are ready to accept any option and work alone and do everything ourselves. If we can organize international cooperation, it will be excellent."

He said the ideal scenario to repeat the experiment would be using a new Russian module that will be sent to the ISS in the coming years.  The new module will be developed to meet the demands of the experiment.

“One problem is linked with the establishment of communication because it will be different for the crew involved in the experiment and others on board the ISS," Morukov said. "Moreover, all cosmonauts on board the ISS should take part in servicing the station."

He said there is a need to change the mission control scheme by allowing the station to do this itself without guidance from mission control.

Analyst of the “Novosti Kosmonautiki” magazine Igor Lisov said the project will be technically complicated.

“There is a need to separate a part of the ISS and deploy an independent crew there and allow them to work autonomously,"  Lisov told the Russian media. "This part should have an independent life support system."

A 500-day mission in space would not be much longer than the feat Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov accomplished, spending 437 days in space.

Igor Ushakov, director of the Institute of the Medical and Biological Problems, said that Russia's ISS partners understand the importance of imitating a flight to Mars on board the station.

Roscosmos hopes the experiment will be conducted before the operating life of the ISS ends in 2020.