One of the most demanding human experiments in space history will soon be taking place: a trip, totally simulated, to Mars, where six “astronauts” will spend 17 months in an isolation tank on Earth. The European Space Agency, or ESA, called for applications for the experiment on Tuesday, according to the AFP.
The “spaceship” will be a series of interlocked modules, and will be located in an research institute in Moscow. After the doors are closed, the volunteers will not have any contact with the outside world, with the exception of a delayed radio link.
The volunteers will have to deal with simulated emergencies, daily work routines and experiments, and also boredom and expected personal friction from being in such close quarters. The size iof the area s just 550 cubic metres, which is the equivalent of nine truck containers.
Any communications between the volunteers and simulated mission control, as well as loved ones, will take up to 40 minutes to be received. 40 minutes is the time that it takes a radio signal to cross the void that is between the Earth and a space shuttle on Mars. The packaged variety of food, mostly eaten by those on the International Space Station, will be the meals.
The goal of the simulation is to learn about the psychological challenges that a crew will face if they go on a trip to Mars.
The crew will be made of Four Russians, and two will be from countries that are members of the ESA, according to Russian and agency officials. This was stated at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget. 12 European volunteers are needed all together.
A study of 105-days is scheduled to start by mid-2008 as a prelude to the main study, with another possible 105-day study to follow the first. The full, 520-day study will begin in late 2008 or early 2009.
“The selection procedure is similar to that of ESA astronauts, although there will be more emphasis on psychological factors and stress resistance than on physical fitness,” ESA said in a press release, according to the AFP.
The application can be downloaded by anyone who thinks they can do it on http://www.spaceflight.esa.int/CallforCandidates .
Payment for the confinement study will be 120 euros, the equivalent of 158 dollars a day, said Marc Heppener of ESA’s Science and Application Division.
Russia’s Institute of Biomedical Problems, the institute where the experiment will take place, employs a Viktor Baranov. Baranov said that so far, the organization has received about 150 applications, and that only 19 of them came from women.
“The problem is that it is very difficult to find healthy people for this kind of experiment,” he said, according to the AFP.
A trip to Mars is not supposed to happen anytime soon. The United States is setting a plan in effect to return to the moon by 2018, and has yet to set a date for a trip to Mars. Immediate concerns for such a trip are keeping the crew healthy, both physically and mentally.
originally reported by AFP, “Space pioneers wanted for 520-day Mars experiment”