September 7, 2011
ESA’s Mock Mission To Mars in Home Stretch
The six individuals participating in the European Space Agency (ESA)'s mock 560-day mission to Mars are now less than two months away from their simulated return to Earth.
According to the official website of the project, dubbed "Mars500", the simulated mission to the red planet and back is "proceeding smoothly" at its home base, in Moscow's Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBPM).
Communication channels between mission control and the astronauts will resume on September 15, beginning with a review of the medical condition of the half-dozen participants.
The astronauts passed a milestone of sorts in mid-August when they spent their 439th straight day away from the natural world. That surpassed, by one day, the previous mark for a human being, which had been held by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polykov, a crew member on the Mir space station in 1994 and 1995. In the days that followed, they have, of course, lengthened their own record.
"Apart from being pale, the six men are coping with the situation remarkably well. They are always looking for new ways of staying motivated and relaxed," the ESA said in a September 1 status update posted to the project website.
"The six men are keeping busy with scientific experiments, as well as making videos and writing diaries. One marsonaut, Diego Urbina, is a regular on Twitter," Telegraph reporter Sally Hall added in a Monday article. "Each is taking Vitamin D supplements to combat problems caused by lack of sunshine. They are also wearing red goggles to protect their eyes when they step out on November 4."
Joining Urbina, a 27-year-old from Italy, on the mission are 31-year-old Frenchman Romain Charles; 37-year-old Sukhrob Rustamovich Kamolov, 38-year-old Alexey Sergevich Sitev, and 32-year-old Alexandr Egorovich Smoleevskiy, all of Moscow; and 27-year-old Chinese astronaut Yue Wang.
According to the Mars500 project homepage, Urbina and Charles are each keeping diaries, taking photos, and making videos of their experiences on the simulated mission.
The mission is a test of whether men and women can handle the physical and mental rigors of a real-life journey to Mars. While the study is unable to gauge the effects of weightlessness, according to the Mars500 website, it will "help to determine key psychological and physiological effects of being in such an enclosed environment for such an extended period of time."
Image Caption: Mars500 crew having a fun portrait with red protective goggles. Credit: ESA
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