Feeds

Wooden Mars ark voyagers set to step out on Earth

'Nauts to end 520-day simulated interplanetary odyssey

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A group of six men who have spent the past 17 months sealed up inside a spaceship simulator near Moscow - in order to investigate the problems which might arise on a mission to Mars - are about to regain their liberty.

Diego Urbina relaxing in the Mars500 facility. Credit: ESA

Life aboard the wooden space ark.

The denizens of the Mars-vessel complex, which features wooden interiors rather different from those seen on present-day spacecraft, will transfer into their "landing capsule" for a simulated setdown on Earth on Friday 4 November. They will have not left the "ship" for 520 days at that point, apart from a few brief spacesuited "Mars walks" in a suitably ochre-tinted indoor sandpit to simulate a landing on the red planet.

Scientists working on the project are already overjoyed with the way things have worked out.

“The answer is yes”, says Patrik Sundblad, human life sciences specialist at the European Space Agency (ESA).

“Yes, the crew can survive the inevitable isolation that is for a mission to Mars and back. Psychologically, we can do it."

The simulation has been a realistic as possible given a relatively limited budget - for instance the pretend 'nauts have not been subject to prolonged low- or zero-gravity conditions. In particular, communications form inside to outside the "ship" have been delayed as they would be to and from a mission far out in deep space, to reflect the time radio waves would take to travel between the ship and Earth. This delay, with landing approaching, is now only tiny, easing the pressure on the men inside.

“The crew has worked individually and as team very well, and the cooperation in the outside world has been outstanding,” observes Sundblad.

“Russia, China and Europe have maintained the integrity of the unique experiment.

“This is a very important lesson for any future mission to Mars: it is not only about the spacecraft and its crew, but also about close cooperation on Earth between all the teams and the international space agencies.”

There is no such close cooperation in hand on a real manned Mars mission, though both Russia and China have stated it as a vague long-term aspiration. US plans are a little firmer, with a massive heavy-lift rocket of the sort that would be needed on NASA's drawing boards and work underway on the Orion 'deep space' craft. However there is widespread doubt as to whether NASA can actually afford the Space Launch System - let alone SLS and Orion and Mars landers, service modules etc. Even if it can, no mission to the red planet seems likely until well into the 2030s at the moment. Various problems such as protection for the crew from radiation storms remain largely unsolved as yet.

There's more on the imminent end of the Mars 500 simulation from the ESA here. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
THERE it is! Philae comet lander FOUND in EXISTING Rosetta PICS
Crumb? Pixel? ALIEN? Better, it's a comet-catcher!
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.