August 15, 2011

Mars500 Crew Sets Endurance Record

The Mars500 crew broke the record recently for the longest time spent on a space mission, without even leaving Earth.

The crew has spent 438 days in a 12ft-wide capsule to simulate a trip to Mars on a 520-day mission.

The astronauts reached a landmark in their space mission by spending the longest amount of time in isolation. 

The crew still has 82 days left on their 520-day mission and will also be entering the record books for the shortest distance traveled on a space mission.

The experiment's goal is to find out what happens psychologically and physically during long-distance space flight in a simulated mission to Mars.

The crew "landed" on Mars after 257 days in a capsule before their return journey to Earth.

The experiment is taking place outside the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow.

The astronauts have been observed by behavioral specialists the entire time of the mission.

The goal of the mission is to help real space crews in the future cope with the confinement and stress of interplanetary travel.

The crew members communicate with the outside world through emails and video messages.

The team eats canned food similar to that eaten on the International Space Station and "shower" only once a week.

None of the men have abandoned the mission, and they are free to walk out at any time.

The Mars500 experiment is being conducted by the Moscow-based Institute for Medical and Biological Problems, the European Space Agency and China's space training center.

The crew has been living in an area the size of a bus connected with several other modules for experiments and exercise.

The crew is made up of Frenchman Romain Charles, 31, and Italian-Colombian Diego Urbina, 27, who are engineers by training. China's Wang Yue, 26, is an employee at China's space training center.

The Mars500 crew were warmly congratulated yesterday by the Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, the actual holder of the space endurance record, who spent 437 days orbiting Earth aboard the Mir space station in 1995.

"Better now not to count how much time has passed, but how much remains. It has a positive effect," he recommended in a message to the crew.

The crew has been playing computer games simulating emergencies on Mars, as well as other games like Guitar Hero during the mission.

Polyakov, who spent time in a previous simulated trip, described the experience as "identical as spaceflight, except no weightlessness."

The astronauts will receive about $100,000 for completing the 520 day mission.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the crew is coping well and in good spirits.  ESA has been providing them with surprise gifts, like books and T-shirts, to help sustain morale during the long "trip" back.


Image Caption: Mars500 crew having a fun portrait with red protective goggles. Credits: ESA


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