A crew of 6 men were sealed into their ‘spacecraft’ today in a simulated mission to Mars. For the next 520 days they will be living in close proximity, physically isolated from the outside world. They will live and work like astronauts, eat special food and exercise in the same way as crews aboard the International Space Station. The first 250 days of the mission will simulate travelling to Mars, followed by a month of exploring their surroundings and another 230 days “Travelling home”.
Because of the extreme isolation of interplanetary travel, it is vital to understand the effects that spending such a long time cooped up in a small metal container with 5 other men will have on an astronaut before launch. This experiment will simulate actual space travel conditions as much as possible – the astronauts will have to prepare their own food, repair their own equipment and perform scientific experiments. Since living in such cramped quarters is known to cause the body to waste away, they will also need to exercise vigorously for 2 hours each day to maintain muscle mass and skeletal strength. They will also only be allowed to shower once per week, to conserve water.
Their isolation will be complete, to the point where only electricity, air and a small amount of water will be allowed into the capsule from now on. Volunteers were picked from Italy, France, Russia and China. The six crew members, plus one backup, are pictured above. Here’s hoping they come out reasonably healthy and without having had too many fights!