International Team Embarks On Russain Led Mars Flight Simulation

03.31.09 | FL News Team

Today a team of six volunteers will begin a project designed to bring the world's leading scientists one step closer to a manned flight to Mars. The "New York Times" reports four Russians, one German and a Frenchman will spend the next 105 days locked inside a mock spacecraft in a Moscow research facility.

The experiment is the first leg of the Russian-led international project designed to test how well the group can hold up under the prolonged isolation space crews would likely face on a mission to the Red Planet.

During the project, dubbed Mars-500, scientists at Russia's Institute of Biomedical Problems will use video cameras to monitor the volunteers as they eat dehydrated food, breathe recycled air, and have limited contact with anyone but one another. The crew will also participate in experiments that test how the isolation affects metabolism, sleep cycles, and the cardiovascular and immune systems.

Scientists say a space flight to Mars would be different from the long-term stints present-day astronauts spend in orbit around the Earth. Specifically, instead of having regular contact with mission control, interplanetary space travelers could face communication delays as long as 20 minutes.

The would-be-cosmonauts involved with the Mars-500 project will see what those delays are like for the final 35 days of the experiment. If all goes well, Mars-500 will continue with a 520-day experiment beginning early next year. The longer test will be a more realistic simulation of a complete manned mission to Mars, including the launch, touchdown on the planet, and the return to Earth.