Russia launching 520-day Mars mission simulation

MOSCOW – A manned mission to Mars may be decades away, but an international team of researchers will try to experience what one might be like by locking themselves up in a windowless capsule for a year-and-half — the time needed for a roundtrip to the red planet.

The all-male crew of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian-Colombian and a Chinese won’t endure weightlessness, but from Thursday they will live for 520 days in the spartan conditions of a mock spaceship and follow a harsh regimen of experiments and exercise.

The main task of the Mars-500 experiment is to study the effects of long isolation to help a real space crew of the future cope better with stress and fatigue.

“When everybody interacts with the same people in the same space, habits and behavior become apparent very quickly. These habits may irritate and cause indignation — and even fits of aggression,” said Mikhail Baryshev, a psychotherapist who is connected to the program.

 The facility built for the experiment comprises several interconnected modules with a total volume of 550 cubic meters (about 20,000 cubic feet) and a separate built-in imitator of Mars surface for the mock landing.

The researchers will communicate with the outside world via Internet, delayed and occasionally disrupted to imitate the effects of space travel. They will eat canned food similar to that currently offered on the International Space Station and take a shower once every 10 days — mimicking space conditions. The crew will have two days off in a week, except when emergencies are simulated.

The Russian 520 experiment is a joint venture with Ikea. Ikea has been determined as the best company to assist in  simulating living in cramped conditions creating irritational and  indignate behavior.

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