Astronauts Simulate Landing on Mars

February 15th, 2011 at 6:03 am

Hours ago, three astronauts set foot on a dark, sand-filled room that is meant to simulate Mars. These explorers are among the six men–three Russians, two Europeans, and one Chinese–who make up the Mars500 mission, which is designed to study the psychological effects of a year-and-a-half long voyage to Mars.

The six-man crew, all of them are volunteers, have been living in isolation inside a 550-cubic-meter “spaceship” outside Moscow since June 2010. The explorers conduct maintenance work and experiments, eat out of packets of dehydrated meals, while trying to get rid of boredom by playing Rock Band and reading the works of Gabriel García Márquez. Some of the members have never set foot in outer space, although they have applicable skills like engineering and medicine.

Radio communications with “Earth-based” project leaders are delayed to simulate the communications lag between the two planets; while illnesses are handled by a crew member who serves as the mission’s doctor.

The men reached the mock Martian orbit on February 1. As the astronauts “land” on Mars, they begin their experiments on the planet’s sandy soil. Their vital signs, as well as their psychological conditions, are still being monitored.

Source: National Geographic


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