Countdown begins to 520 day `Mars mission`

A group of volunteers have started final training in Russia in preparation for being locked up in a capsule for 520 days to simulate the psychological effects of the voyage to Mars.

Last Updated: May 04, 2010, 16:38 PM IST

Moscow: A group of volunteers have started final training in Russia in preparation for being locked up in a capsule for 520 days to simulate the psychological effects of the voyage to Mars.

Three Russians, two other Europeans and one Chinese national will be shut away for one-and-a-half years inside the 180-square-metre module on the outskirts of Moscow starting
late May or early June.

The project, the first full-duration simulated mission to Mars, follows a similar experiment at the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP) last year which saw six volunteers shut away for a mere 105 days.

One of the biggest unknowns of an eventual manned mission to Mars will be the psychological effects of the isolation, and the experiment aims to garner crucial data on the participants` state of mind and body.

The volunteers are now undergoing tests and training in Moscow ahead of the final selection of the "expedition" crew and their back-up.

"The biggest risk of such an isolation is psychological," said researcher Alexander Suvorov who is leading the experiment at the IBMP.
"Of course relations between the crew will not always be harmonious, some will get on with others, others will not. But the priority is to be able to carry out tasks in spite of
this."

PTI