January 26, 2020

09.02.11: A (Virtual) Martian Landing.

Ever hoped man would walk on Mars in our lifetime? For the past eight months, a six man crew based in a simulated environment has been headed towards a mock up of just such an event. The program is none other than the Mars 500 mission, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) 500 day “voyage” to the planet Mars. On June 3rd, 2010, six volunteers sequestered themselves in an experimental facility at Moscow’s Institute for Bio-Medical Problems (IBMP) to take part in a study of the physiological and psychological impacts such a long mission would have.

During the journey, they’ve endured 20 minute communication delays, emergency drills, and spotty internet. The whole experimental facility looks rather like a human-sized hamster cage, with storage, living areas, a Martian lander, and a simulated Martian surface environment. Earlier this month, the crew entered “Mars orbit” in anticipation for a landing and hatch opening on February 14th. Things are rather cramped in the 550 meter mother ship facility, and the video diary from the crew has been entertaining to say the least;

Of course, other long duration “lock-ins” have occurred, such as the Biosphere 2 experiment outside Tucson, Arizona and the IBMP’s own 105 day pilot program back in 2009. A real Martian mission would face the added threats of increased radiation exposure and long term weightlessness. Also, Mars 500 is not fully self-contained in terms of supplies, air, etc although longer duration stays aboard the International Space Station are headed towards this goal. More than likely, a real Mars mission will see a crew headed to the Red Planet for an extended time until a new return window to Earth opens. Supplies and fuel could be prepositioned, and more extensive studies could be carried out. We took six months to get there; why not stay for a bit? No one truly knows just how well folks will adjust to living in a tin can world for well over a year…Just how well will the crew fare on their return journey? Tune in for next week’s hatch opening and be sure to follow the diary of the Mars 500 team to find out! Now, when will we have the first Astroguyz blog post from Mars?

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