Today four Russians, a German and a Frenchman walked into a pod in Moscow and not walk out again for 105 days in an attempt to see the psychological and physical effects of a flight to Mars may play out.
This project is one of the first steps in the plan to put humans on Mars by 2030. The team is made up of participants are French airline pilot Cyrille Fournier, German engineer Oliver Knickel, professional cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Ryazansky, doctor Alexei Baranov and sports physio Alexei Shpakov. All six speak English and Russian.
“I’m very happy to have such a crew,” said team captain Sergei Ryazansky, who has undergone training for a real space mission. “There mustn’t be psychological problems in this crew. We even may create a musical band.”
The pod is cramped with few comforts of home and no windows looking out at the world. The pod has three modules, one for food storage, one medical module and the unit where the participants will be living for the next 120 days.
Each member has his own small private room that consists of a desk, chair and small bed. While the team sleeps they will be wearing a 128-electrode cap that records brain activity.
The team also has a small gym. Team members have been allowed to bring DVDs, laptops and books to pass the time during their non-working periods. It is hoped that the few home comforts will help tensions that could appear on the pod.
A woman had been considered for this mission. Russian biologist Marina Tugusheva, 25, was deemed suitable for the project. In the end though it was decided to not jeopardise the experiment this time around with tension between the sexes.
She is believed to be a front runner though on the longer mission planned for later this year.
The Mail On Sunday reports:
Anyone who’s ready to participate in space exploration should treat it as serious work,’ Tugusheva said.
‘Quite consciously we must treat others as not men and women but as colleagues.’
A previous attempt in Moscow failed after alcohol was allowed to be consumed on the eve of the millennium. During that experiment two members began to fight for the affections of a female Canadian scientist. She had to lock herself into her room when one of the members made advancements on her. A knife fight ensued causing a Japanese volunteer to faint.
The mission will not stop this time around unless it is life or death.
Moscow News reports:
“The evacuation of individual members of the crew due to illness or personal wish is comparable to the ‘death’ of the cosmonaut,” a mission statement ran.
“The crew will themselves resolve all problems and uncomfortable situations which do not require the evacuation of crew members,” an Institute source said.
The team seemed excited as they entered into the pod today.
“How do I feel? I am very motivated. There is a kind of relief. We have been working for a long time and finally we are getting to the start point,” Frenchman Cyrille Fournier told reporters just hours ahead of the experiment.
“The challenge is to live with the same people for a long period but it is a positive challenge. I think we are going to learn a lot about each other,” added his German fellow volunteer Oliver Knickel.
“The aim is to test the physiological and psychological effects of isolation,” he added.
The crew will be monitored constantly but with an artificial 20-minute delay that simulates the reality of deep-space travel. The team will be accessed by Czech scientists from Tomas Bata University in Zlin, south Moravia according to Jaroslav Sykora, International Academy of Astronautics member for the psychological impact of full isolation on the six volunteers’ stress, hormones, sleep and mood.
Team members will be allowed to talk to both their families and the control center. Those talks though will have a 20 minute delay.
Mars500 is a partnership between European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow. Researchers from around the world are part of this research including member countries of the ESA, Russia, Canada and the United States.
There were 5,600 applicants willing to give up 105 days of their lives to be part of the study. The six members that made it through will receive a monthly salary of $6,500.
This is the first stage of theMars500 project. One of the aspects of this mission will be a simulated 30 day “orbit” around Mars.
Another longer simulation will take place later lasting for 520 days scheduled for December. On that mission it is expected a woman would be taking part. That team is yet to be selected.
Scientific American reports:
According to the ESA, the study’s “participants will act as subjects in scientific investigations to assess the effect that isolation has on various psychological and physiological aspects, such as stress, hormone regulation and immunity, sleep quality, mood and the effectiveness of dietary supplements.”
The true lengthen of a trip to Mars would be almost two years. One month of that trip would be orbiting Mars for about a month while part of a team would be on the planet’s surface. The return trip to Earth would be 240 days.