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Space Science

Volunteer to Simulate a Mars Mission for the ESA 209

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the 17-months-seems-fair-to-me dept.
number6x writes "The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking for volunteers for a simulated trip to Mars. The simulation will put a crew of six in isolation for 17 months. The crew will be made up of 4 Russians and 2 Europeans. In all the ESA will need 12 volunteers for back up purposes. Seventeen months was chosen to simulate the time needed for the journey to Mars and back, as well as a 30 day period spent doing experiments on the red planet."
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Volunteer to Simulate a Mars Mission for the ESA

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:41AM (#19578725)
    Simple question. Will they be allowed to have sex?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:43AM (#19578763)
    Four Russians and two Europeans cooped up for 17 months in a confined space? Do you have any idea how bad that's going to smell? It's going to be like feet wrapped in leathery, burnt bacon. Ewwww!
    • by pragma_x (644215)
      "Oh great, now he's crying."

      But you're right - it would get pretty funky in there. Then again, ask yourself: what does it smell like on the ISS *now*.

      You can only carry so much activated charcoal into orbit with you.

  • by RealGene (1025017) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:44AM (#19578771)
    ...bone loss, extended radiation exposure, and catastrophic micrometeorite punctures?
    That would be a reality show worth watching...
    --Gene
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      With all the reality shows, it's amazing they haven't come up with a show where they lock a bunch of people in a small "space capsule". They already have issues with people arguing when they are living in luxury mansions or deserted islands, but just imagine if you locked them all in a small box. They wouldn't be able to simulate 0 g, or radiation or any other environmental factors, but it would be nice to study the social factors.
      • They already did in the UK. They tricked this bunch of fuckwits into thinking they were going to send them into space, then locked them in a box and shook it about a load and told them they were in orbit, they then told them they were in orbit, they made up a stupid excuse for them not being weightless and the idiots bought it. The idiots then proceeded to cry like little whiny babies when the truth was revealed and they had just been humiliated in front of millions of people and all the papers were mocki
  • <Aahnold>

    Get your ass to simulated Mars!

    </Aahnold>
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:45AM (#19578787)
    The entire crew should be made up of nerds and geeks. They can do 17 months without sex standing on their heads.
  • by Jedi Alec (258881) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:46AM (#19578807)
    Only we called it "Big Brother", and it was the end of tv as we knew it.
    • Wrong - Pauly Shore did it first, Budddddddddy. Biodome ftw.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      *blink*

      You just gave me a billion dollar idea. Round up all those BB losers and fire them off to Mars. After all, they already proved that they can survive 17 years sitting on top of each other.

      Yeah, every week someone gets kicked out the airlock, but then again, I mean, who'd miss 'em?
    • by LittleGuy (267282)
      Two Words: Julie Chen.
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)
      Depends on the volunteers they'd get....

      Day 217, Toadsmeg is called into the diary room.

      "Toadsmeg, big brother knows you and Kylie havn't been getting along well, but todays task is to go outside with him and fix the retro booster adjustment nozzles."

      "the what man, like, do I have to put on the spacesuit, like man it so totally messes up my hair and like well kylie is just sooo much a bitch and has eaten all the crackers so like I need my space and with all the hassle of like man being in space like and eve
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:48AM (#19578847)

    "Communications with the simulated mission control and loved-ones will take up to 40 minutes"
    They're running Vista?
  • by Anthonares (466582) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <03ladnek>> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:48AM (#19578853) Homepage
    Virtually all modern plans for Mars missions follow the same basic timeline: 6 months travel to Mars, 2 years on the planet, and 8 months back. The idea of a 30-day stay on the planet was abandoned long ago by NASA.

    This simulation takes away the huge reward of the long travel time, and replaces it with a brief 30 day stint of freedom.

    They'll surely get interesting results, they just won't be worth anything when it comes time to actually plan a real manned Mars mission.
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:56AM (#19578987) Journal
      The hard part will be getting there and back; they need to know the levels of cabin fever that are going to occur and they need to be able to test that in a simulated environment.

      Locking people in a tank for 17 months and watching how they deal with each other is a valuable experiment. Spending 2 years running around the desert in a spacesuit to simulate martian experiments...Now that would be worthless.
      • by Cthefuture (665326) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:25AM (#19580539)
        Yeah but I could deal with the confinement at lot better knowing the reward is being on Mars eventually. That and knowing I'm hurling through space at a brazillion miles an hour very far from Earth.

        Doing this experiment would drive me insane because there is no payoff for the suffering other than research data.
        • Maybe if you do well, it's a shot at being on the eventual Mars mission? ...Yea, pretty unlikely, unless it gets off the ground far sooner than it probably will.

          If nothing else, it's an opportunity to sit around on your ass getting paid for 17 months of doing nothing. Just like being in the military, but without the periodic "oh my god I'm going to die" moments...What's the quote? "War is 95% boredom and 5% pure terror"? This is just like that, but with 5% more boredom!

          They're already doing the "prolonged w
        • by jdigriz (676802)
          Ha! Brazillion miles an hour! try tens of thousands. Even at a measly 1 million miles per hour which we are nowhere near achieving, you'd make Mars orbit in 35 hours at Mars' minimum distance to earth. Scientists only dream of such speeds being produced by our engines.
      • by slapout (93640)
        "Locking people in a tank for 17 months and watching how they deal with each other is a valuable experiment"

        Sounds like a reality show waiting to happen.
    • Well that not entirely fair. for the simulation how would the simulate time on mars? You mention the promise of freedom, but what freedom would you have in a simulation like this. Even when you on the planet (simulated) your still going to be trapped because it will still be the simulation? This makes more sense in my head than it does on screen but do you see what I'm trying to get at?
    • >>Virtually all modern plans for Mars missions follow the same basic timeline: 6 months travel to Mars, 2 years on the planet, and 8 months back.

      They need to really wait on a Mars mission until this is fairly cheap and easy, or it will kill the manned space program. 2 years of media coverage will overload the general public's appetite. It will be like the moon program all over again; people will get bored with it and say "mission complete" and start saying we should be spending our money on something
  • by Zarhan (415465) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:53AM (#19578921)
    You get paid 120 EUR / day. And if I understood correctly, it's counted as "allowance", meaning it's tax-free..
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:59AM (#19579047)
      Sounds like a fair lot 'til you realize that this is for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that your hourly wage is about 5 bucks. Whether you're awake or sleeping, granted, but then again, I do value my privacy somewhat.

      But hey, here's an idea. How about stuffing all those "if you got nothing to hide..." people in there? I'm pretty sure it might make them reevaluate that stance.
      • by PineGreen (446635)
        I am one of those "nothing to hide" people... Even if I have "nothing to hide", I would still get bored to death and hate my companions. This trip has absolutely nothing to do with privacy...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by RealGrouchy (943109)
      That would be great--if there were duty-free shops on Mars.

      - RG>
    • Ummm..."Europe" and "tax-free??"

      Sure. Yeah. Whatever.
    • If you were paid according to Russian law, you would pay just 10% income tax. Thats all now.
    • That's a good paycheck. After converting that's 160.65 US dollars a day. That's a 41k a year salary. Which from my view of the world is pretty good. Where do I sign up?
  • by master_p (608214) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:53AM (#19578925)
    Since they would put the 6 people in isolation, they could sell that as a reality show and fund the mission.
  • Please correct me if I am wrong: From what I understand, the major danger from trips to Mars is poor shielding from cosmic rays and other forms of radiation during the trip. Any progress on that?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Troed (102527)
      Yes. The location for this experiment is going to be close to the LHC - which will finish in this timescale and provide the participants with the needed cosmic rays.

    • by Von Helmet (727753) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:09AM (#19579197)

      Interestingly, I read about a bunch of tiny worms on their way back from space. They've been up there long enough to produce 25 generations and scientists are going to examine their DNA to see if it's changed along the way due to aforementioned radiation.

      Links at Google News [google.co.uk].

  • by spungo (729241) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:59AM (#19579041)
    Every single day, the same routine, the same faces, the same surroundings, the same conversations... or I could leave IT and sign up for this!
  • by phrostie (121428) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:00AM (#19579061)
    /. is falling behind. this is old news.

    my wife was trying to volunteer me for this yesterday.

    wait,,,
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:00AM (#19579067)
    you know, the one that slaughters the crew.
  • 30 days?! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by carpe_noctem (457178) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:06AM (#19579157) Homepage Journal
    A 30 day trip to mars after 8 months of travel would be like a family driving the kids to Disneyland, riding on one ride, and then everybody back in the car for the ride home!

    I understand that this experiment is probably limited by funds, not a realistic simulation, etc.... but really, 30 days?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Loke the Dog (1054294)
      The alternative is 2 years, as I understand it. The problem is that Mars and Earth are only close to each other every second year or so. You have to go there as they are moving closer, and leave before they part too far again, or you have to stay there for another cycle.

      Now, 30 days is a bit short, but 2 years is too long. 17 months, with 30 days on the planet, vs 40 months with 24 months on the planet.
      • True. But it's not like we're planning on launching a real manned mars mission in the next 2-3 years, so they might as well...
  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:12AM (#19579259)
    The space station has quasi-ecological isolation. Although they get re-supplied almost every month and have the option of immediate escape.

    Ecological isolation didnt quite work in Biosphere II (soon to become condos). It was hard to keep the atmosphere in balance and grow enough food. Most participants lost 1/4 to 1/3 of weight.
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:30AM (#19579549)
      Most participants lost 1/4 to 1/3 of weight.



      They should have made it a diet center instead of using the space for condos, then.


      That aside, IMHA Biosphere II used the wrong approach - too many things at once (several different ecosystems, lots of species, etc). A better approach could be to find the minimum number of species that is necessary (which means that there'll be a lot of algae and fungi, and not all that many vertebrates and insects), and determine what type of inputs and outputs are necessary (even on the most barren planet, there'll be some local resources to use).

  • The definition of Russian sounds weird to me.
    • Well, most of Russia is located in the Asian continent.

      However, in this case, the blurb is slightly inaccurate. The ESA actually wants two citizens of ESA countries and four Russians.

    • by Jonathan (5011)
      Parts of Russia (Siberia, for example) are in Asia. Additionally, Russia is not politically European -- it is not part of the EU.
    • by fsmunoz (267297)
      I tought the same thing the moment I read it. This is a nitpick, since I understood that they meant "people from the EU". It's similar to the usage that brits make of "Europe", depending on the mood and context they talk about it as if it's only the Continent.

      Russia has for centuries had this "debate", between the most "european" leaning faction and the one that prefers some form of isolations. For me all the Russians I have met were European, and Russia is an European country. Geography plays its part,
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sprintstar (903557)
      Europe is the bit between the UK and Russia.. :)
  • There's a hell of a lot more to going to Mars that we need to understand and this experiment fills in some of the picture. Not that the radiation danger isn't important, but other experiments can deal with that problem. This requires an unprecedented combination of restriction and isolation. I think that we're going to find that the psychological impact on "astronauts" will change how we're going to need to design these missions. So, no Mars Direct-style flights in small cramped spacecraft. I suspect t
  • They should use the old Apollo sets they used when they faked the moon landings. ;)
    • They'd have to get red photo filters, but only for the set, unless they want to explain to us why the actors are dressed in red and have reddish tinges to their faces.
  • Backup? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Plutonite (999141) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:24AM (#19579455)

    In all the ESA will need 12 volunteers for back up purposes.
    Me != Hard disk drive, thank you very much. Europeans..
  • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@gdar g a u d . n et> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:35AM (#19579675) Homepage
    Seriously ! I spent a year with 12 other people in the middle of Antarctica in 2005 [gdargaud.net] and we were being followed by shrinks of the ESA. There's a big difference between a winterover and the proposed experiment: the first has a purpose while the second has not. I mean the only purpose here is to stay in a can. At least when you go to Mars or to Antarctica you have a job to perform and important things to do (science and ensuring your survival because there's no way out). Here you'll have people crack down after a few weeks from a sense of uselessness. I would sign up for another winterover or a Mars mission no questions asked. I wouldn't get canned like this for a heap of gold and an all you can download porn access.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Deep Penguin (73203)
      Guillaume, having wintered at the South Pole in 2004 and 2006 (overlapping the start and finish of your Winter), I can entirely agree with the importance of a having fulfilling job to ward off Winter boredom; and I, too, would jump at the chance to go to Mars for real (I've already signed up for the 2008 Winter at Pole); but, I guess we differ in that I've already considered sitting in a tin can for months with these guys. I visited the IBMP in 1999 as a potential candidate for a 240-day "mission", but the
    • I'm not sure the point of this exercise. They should test the entire pool of _trained_ astronauts and then pick the final bunch from those who pass. Not waste time testing volunteers.

      After all if they didn't limit it to EU people and Russians there'll be tons of people from poorer countries who'd be willing to get 120 EURs x 30 days x 17 months PLUS get free food and lodging in a fairly safe environment ( no earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, floods, hurricanes etc).

      There are maids from Indonesia and Philippi
      • by dargaud (518470)
        Good point about the desperately poor.

        On a different take, in the book Rocheworld [amazon.com], Robert Forward imagines the first spaceship to another start with barely better than now technology. Meaning it's a one-way trip. The important thing is that the life-support system is meant to keep running longer than the natural extension of their life, so it's not strictly a suicide mission. Also in Red Mars, the 2nd team is sent 'until the next mission'...

        • Are we being too planet-centric?

          So many people seem to be assuming a planet as a _final_ destination.

          The way I see it: the odds of finding a "nice" planet and getting there without FTL travel are low. The odds of finding a "nearby" planet more comfortable than spacecraft/fleets designed and built to carry humans for centuries are even lower.

          I suggest that once our planet/star starts to become less hospitable, there'll be a high incentive to move to space stations further out in the solar system.

          Life in spac
    • by peragrin (659227)
      No the 30 days they spend on mars they will have things to do.

      The other 180 odd days they will be on autopilot stuck in a tin can with little physical and mental exercises.

      What they should do is make them all programmers and tell them to rewrite Vista.
  • Why haven't we already been to Mars then? It was my understanding it would takes years just to go one way. If we can make it there and back in 17 months that is doable with current technology. No need for cryogenics etc. There have been several people on the ISS for longer periods of time. So the human body can take it.
    • by SirBruce (679714)
      The main reason we sent a manned mission to Mars is money, but there are other obstacles as well. We don't have a vehicle capable of launching a large enough ship with all the needed supplies to Mars, nor a lander to get us to the Martian surface and then take off again. While you're right that we've had people on the ISS and other space stations for long periods of time, the weakness they suffer from bone and muscle loss makes it difficult for them to re-adjust to gravity. We don't know yet how producti
  • are located in Europe even if most of Russia is within the geographic boundaries of Asia.
  • Been done already... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by taff^2 (188189)
    http://www.channel4.com/entertainment/tv/microsite s/S/spacecadets/ [channel4.com]

    We're not falling for it twice!
  • Some geek-types spend most of their lives in isolation - this wont be much of a change to them. Its the astronaut jock types that may crack under the "stress" of doing nothing but sitting in front of a computer all day sipping mountain dew.
  • Toughen up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sinktank (871915) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @02:28PM (#19584039)

    Motivated people throughout history have endured considerably more privation than being confined to 92 m2/person for 17 months. We know that from a psychological standpoint, people can and will make a trip of this nature. The key word here is motivation.

    But if the participants know that the whole thing is a simulation, it robs the experiment of any useful insight into many aspects of psychological stress because this motivational factor is missing; the difference between a simulated airlock and a real one will not be lost on participants. The project would thus seem to be a way to validate the astronaut selection process itself, and not just a study on long-term isolation - in other words, "we know people can handle it, but we still don't have a reliable way of knowing which ones". The recent diapers-and-knives episode amply illustrates that astronaut selection is something of an inexact science.

    Of course, this still leaves lots of room for interesting experiments on group dynamics, but we already know quite a lot on this subject: for example, years of experimentation with Skylab, Mir etc. suggested that if there was some tension in the group, ground control would usually create an obviously impossible schedule of work for the team, creating a them-versus-us mentality which tended to bring the team closer; tensions within the group were eased by colluding to grumble about ground control.

    This sort of thing has been studied exhaustively by many military and civilian organisations for a long time, so what are the objectives here?

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