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Russia plans test 'mission' to Mars

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The Russians are looking for six volunteers to be locked away for 500 days to learn more about how people would deal with the isolation of the journey to Mars.

In a set up that sounds (horribly) like the ultimate reality TV show, the volunteers will live in a mock up of a Mars space ship in Moscow, according to a BBC report, entirely isolated from the outside world. The ship will be something like a three bedroom flat, built on a sound stage.

Monitored on CCTV and microphone (see the reality set up?) the faux-cosmonauts will breathe recycled air and subsist on sterilised food packages. The resources they have when they are locked in will be all they will have to last them for 18 months: there will be no resupply missions.

Despite the constant monitoring, contact with the outside world will be limited to email, with long delays before replies are sent, as would be the case on a real journey to Mars.

The experiment is scheduled to start in late 2007, but the Russian Space Agency is seeking volunteers now to undergo a lengthy screening process.

Applicants must be relatively young, fit, speak fluent English, and be qualified to University diploma level. They will then be subject to stringent medical and psychological tests to make sure they have what it takes to live in a space ship for 18 months, and properly document the experience.

The BBC doesn't say whether the Russians are planning to screen the adventure, but we wouldn't be surprised if Big Brother's Endemol production company isn't already negotiating for the broadcasting rights. ®

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