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Mars 500 - to Mars and back in 520 days
by IKE 09-Jun-2010 15:27

A week ago six ‘astronauts’ were enclosed in a special facility near Moscow in order to simulate a journey to Mars and back. They will stay there for 520 days in order to simulate the 250 days to get there, a 30 day stay and the 240 days to get back. This is the largest in a line of smaller similar experiments (the previous one lasted 109 days). The special facility in the Moscow Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) is build in order to simulate the conditions and parameters of a trip to Mars. Of course two factors, gravity and radiation are left out for obvious reasons.---

The sketch above illustrates the basic setup of the facility where the 6 participants will live for 520 days.

The group will have autonomy in their decisions and everyday life and they will be closely monitored. The experiment will yield useful results in various aspects, from supplies management to the psychology of interaction between the members who will be isolated in a closed environment with the duty to perform complex tasks every day.

You can follow the experiment through DLR’s website (one of the major partners) and from the website of IMBP.

The interior design of the living space is quite different from what could look like a similar facility of ESA or NASA. The more ‘traditional’ look with wood and simple furniture may seem strange to European or US where we associate space research with sliding doors and machined surfaces but this kind of facilities are usual through the Soviet / Russian space program.

update [4 Nov.2011]

After 17 months the experiment reached its conclusion and the 6 volunteers stepped outside the facility. The Mars 500 was a complete success and it provided useful observations concerning the life in a contained and controlled environment for such a long time.

You can find more info about the experiment at ESA’s microsite: esa.int/../Mars500/..

The complete schedule of activities: esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars500/SEMGX9U889G_0.html

Article from DLR concerning the experiments they conducted: dlr.de/.../year-2011/

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