Feeds

Wooden Mars ark voyagers set to step out on Earth

'Nauts to end 520-day simulated interplanetary odyssey

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.