Mars Simulation – Astronauts spent the past 18 months locked inside a fake space shuttle outside of Moscow as a simulation. The very real six-man crew from the very European Space Agency finally ended their very fake mission to Mars this afternoon.
The all-male crew of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian-Colombian and a Chinese slowly emerged from the western Moscow facility, which simulated the confinement, stress and fatigue of interplanetary travel, minus the weightlessness. Dressed in blue track suits emblazoned with the mission emblem, they carefully walked down a metal ladder to a greeting crowd of officials and journalists.
“The crew has completed the experiment,” team leader Alexey Sitev reported to Russian space officials. “The mission is accomplished, the crew is in good health and is ready for new missions.”
Psychologists said the simulation of long confinement without daylight and fresh air put the team members under stress as they grow increasingly tired of each other’s company. They said that psychological conditions can even be more challenging on a mock mission than a real flight because the crew won’t experience any of the euphoria or dangers of actual space travel.
During the $15 million experiment, the crew communicated with the organizers and their families via the Internet, which was delayed and occasionally disrupted to imitate the effects of space travel. They ate canned food, which simulated what is offered on the International Space Station.
Each member will be paid about $100,000 for the simulation, except for the Chinese researcher, whose reward hasn’t been revealed by Chinese officials.
A real flight to Mars is decades away because of huge costs and massive technological challenges, particularly the task of creating a compact and relatively lightweight shield that will protect the crew from deadly space radiation. NASA is aiming for a nearby asteroid around 2025 and then on to Mars in the 2030s.