Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids

NASA photo of Mars.

Would you crack up if you were closed in a small space for 520 days? And saw only the same two or three people? Which people, you are wondering... I suppose it might be important to LIKE those people, right? After being locked up for 520 days with someone, I might dislike them INTENSELY and never wanna see them again...

I heard about this on NPR. This past year, they did a 105-day run-through, and will increase the isolation-time during each test-period. They will finally do a whole 520-day simulation before an actual flight to Mars.

Volunteers Locked Away in Mock Mars Mission
By Tariq Malik, Senior Editor, LiveScience
31 March 2009 06:07 pm ET

Six volunteers locked themselves away in a network of metal tubes for the next 105 days on Tuesday in an experiment to study the human stresses of a manned mission to Mars.

Four Russians and two Europeans — a mix of cosmonauts, doctors, an engineer and an airline pilot — shut the metal hatch behind them, sealing themselves inside a habitat at Russia's Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in Moscow.

The three-month endurance test is a trial run for a planned 520-day mock Mars mission by the European and Russian space agencies later this year to study the effects of prolonged isolation on the human body and mind.

"A crew traveling to Mars will face major challenges, not least, how to cope with being confined to a small space and seeing the same faces for one and a half years," said Martin Zell, head of the European Space Agency's (ESA) space station utilization department. "It is of paramount importance to understand the psychological and physiological effects of long-duration confinement, to be able to prepare the crews in the best way possible and to learn about important aspects of the vehicle design."

German mechanical engineer Oliver Knickel and French pilot Cyrille Fournier represent Europe inside the mock Mars habitat. Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyez, Sergei Ryazansky, sports physiologist Alexei Shpakov and medical doctor Alexei Baranov, meanwhile, round out the crew's Russian contingent. The six men are the prime crew for the Mars500 project, the joint European-Russian effort by ESA, the IBMP with funding from Russia's Federal Space Agency.

"Mars500 is the proof that we are preparing for the future," said Simonetta di Pippo, ESA's director of human spaceflight. "[It] is an important part of this global endeavor as it provides us with the knowledge of how to keep a small crew psychologically and physiologically healthy, and ultimately, to succeed in the big challenge to bring humankind to Mars and safely back to Earth."

During the next 105 days, the six-man Mars500 crew is expected to simulate every aspect of a Martian expedition, including a long cruise to the red planet. After a mock orbital phase, the team would then simulate a landing on the Martian surface and an excursion before another long cruise period back to Earth.

Their habitat, which never leaves its Moscow facility, is a series of connected, but compact, metal tanks outfitted with supplies and equipment to last the full 105-day duration. It includes a Mars descent capsule, kitchen, medical area, research area and a crew compartment.

Altogether, the mock Mars ship contains about 2,152 square-feet (200 square-meters) of space. The Mars500 crew will have voice communications with a simulated Mission Control, as well as with their family and friends. But a 20-minute time lag will be built into the discussions to replicate the one-way transmission delay that would be experienced in a real Martian expedition.

A series of simulated emergencies are planned, and real-life emergencies would first fall to the crew to solve, ESA officials said.

"They will have to cope with simulated emergencies; they may even have real emergencies or illnesses," ESA officials said in a statement.
And they emerged from the imitation-spaceship on July 15, 2009:
MOSCOW (Associated Press) -- Russian engineers broke a red wax seal and six men emerged from a metal hatch beaming yesterday after 105 days of isolation in a Soviet-era mock spacecraft testing the stresses space travelers may one day face on the journey to Mars.

Sergei Ryazansky, the captain of the six-man crew, told reporters at a Moscow research institute near the Kremlin that the most difficult thing was knowing that instead of making the 172-million mile journey they were locked in a four-piece windowless module made of metal canisters the size of railway cars.

The men, chosen from 6,000 applicants, were paid about $21,000 each to be sealed up in the mock space capsule since March 31.
Don't think I could handle it.

And now, you know what comes next, or you should.

It's one of the great dramatic renditions of the 20th century!

William Shatner - Rocket Man

Have a great Super Bowl Sunday, everyone!


YogaforCynics said...

*Listening to Seu Jorge's acoustic samba Portuguese rendition of David Bowie's "Life on Mars"*

I've read about how astronauts and cosmonauts on much shorter missions have nearly driven each other homicidally nuts. In one case crewmembers on a space shuttle were unwilling to talk to one another, even in terms of important details about reentering Earth's atmosphere and landing, seriously jeopardizing their mission (and lives). On top of that, it seems to me, the trouble with a simulation like that is that, deep down, participants know that they can, if absolutely necessarily, get out, and that, no matter how good the simulation, there aren't really millions of miles of empty space between them and earth, and that there's little danger of something going fatally wrong (thus, if they hear a "clunk" in the machinery, they know that doesn't mean they've lost all hope of every going home) etc. And that knowledge could do a lot to keep them from losing it.

Dennis the Vizsla said...

For $21K, I would give it a shot. The earth-bound model, I mean. Mars? Not so much.

John Powers said...

I feel quite sure I could not handle being locked up like that. It's a different topic, but when I read about prison conditions I freak out. I need to have darkness sometimes, an to smell fresh air even to touch some earth occasionally.

JoJo said...

Yeah I don't think I'd like it too much myself. You really have to be psychologically and emotionally healthy, something I am not. lol

Now I'll have Rocket Man stuck in my head all the live long day. ;)

Rootietoot said...

I crack up after 2 weeks of my kids being home on vacation, and I actually like *and* love them. I can't imagine being in prolonged close quarters with people I might not even like.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of that twilight zone where the dude thought he was in an abondoned town but was in isolatio n and just cracked

sheila said...

I'd go bonkers. No way, no how. I'll be surprised if anyone actually get's to Mars. I'm not even so sure we went to the moon. :)

Helen Toskana said...

Anyway,that place is gust wonderful!
Great article,man!
Thanks for publishing!

singapore florist said...

it looks like a moon in red.