Feeds

Wooden Mars ark voyagers set to step out on Earth

'Nauts to end 520-day simulated interplanetary odyssey

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
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.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.