Skepticism, Medicine and Science News

Mars Simulation

Inter-human relations is a huge concern for space agencies such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA when it comes to sending people to Mars. A human mission to Mars would likely take over 30 months to complete, so anticipating how the environment of a space craft will affect the astronauts over the length of the mission is vital to make the trip successful. With that in mind, ESA are now planning to simulate Mars-mission-like conditions on earth in a 105-day experiment. 5600 people applied, and as of now ESA has narrowed it down to 8 applicants, two of which will be selected for the experiment. They will join four Russian participants in Moscow in March 2009 where they will be locked inside an isolation chamber. The project is a collaborative effort between ESA and the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP), and once inside the isolation chamber the participants will experience the same conditions as a crew heading for Mars in a space craft. They will only be given frozen meals, no natural sun-light and communications with the outside world will suffer a 20 minute delay, and they will have to preform tasks such as cooking, cleaning and conducting scientific experiments. According to IBPM, the main objectives for the simulation are:


  • To investigate the peculiarities of physiological and psychological adaptation of crewmembers to autonomous life and work conditions
  • To study the interaction between the crew and the Experiment Control Team under modified communications conditions
  • To test the medical and technical equipment and tools used for the crew life support , and researches
  • To refine the list and content of methodological and organizational documentation


However, this is only a preliminary study to prepare for the main event, a 500-day simulation of not only the journey to Mars, but also surface activities on Mars itself. 500 days! That is almost 17 months! That is a long time to be stuck in a confined chamber with a bunch of other people. The exact goals of the 500-day project can be found here. Combined, the two studies will hopefully provide researchers with information like how isolation affects participants, and possible changes in stress levels, immune responses and sleep patterns. I really have to applaud those people willing to spend 500 days in a box for science. 

 Martian sunset captured by NASAs Mars Exploration Rover Spirit on May 19th 2005.


November 11, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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