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Mars Space Science

Volunteers Simulate Mission To Mars 237

Posted by kdawson
from the only-men-need-apply dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Six volunteers have climbed into a small metal capsule in Moscow as part of a three-month experiment meant to simulate a voyage to Mars. The crew — a German engineer, a French airline pilot, and four Russians — will spend the next 105 days living in a minimally furnished facility erected in a hangar on the outskirts of the Russian capital. The German said, 'I think we are going to learn a lot about each other.' A cosmonaut-in-training who will lead the mission was quoted: 'On the inside, we will have a lack of incoming information, so it's the science of sensory deprivation.' A similar experiment in Moscow virtually collapsed when a multinational team of men and women were allowed to drink alcohol on the eve of the millennium, and simmering tensions between Russian and non-Russian volunteers exploded in a fight for the affections of a female Canadian scientist. Only men are involved this time, and no alcohol. Scientists will keep a constant vigil on the team via cameras erected in each of the facility's three modules. Those who survive more than 100 days will earn a $20,000 reward. The current project is a warm-up for a much more ambitious experiment, scheduled for December, which will see another group of volunteers spending over 500 days in the same conditions. With current technology it is estimated that a return trip to Mars will take at least 18 months." The amazing thing is that 5,600 people applied to be part of the experiment.
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Volunteers Simulate Mission To Mars

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  • by RagingFuryBlack (956453) <NjRef511@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @11:49PM (#27411915) Homepage
    So... $20,000/100 Days = $200 dollars, day. $200/24 hours = $8.33/hour. Some people really need to do the math before going "OMG THATS A GREAT REWARD" >> Kudos to those running the experiment. Cheap labor is great.
    • by RuBLed (995686) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @11:57PM (#27411971)
      They earn more per day than an ordinary minimum waged Russian do for a month. And in my country where I could consider myself a middle class person (still single), they earn more in 100 days than I could possibly earn in a year.
    • What poor math!

      20,000/100 Days = $200 dollars, day.
      Yeah, for a 7 day work week

      $200/24 hours = $8.33/hour
      A 24 hour work day. Yeah!

    • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @11:58PM (#27411993) Homepage Journal

      Have you looked at unemployment numbers lately? Having a guaranteed steady job for over 3 months, making $8.33 per hour even while you're sleeping... Not so bad.

      • Not much room for advancement though, then you're looking for a job same as everyone else, except you either have a 105 day hole/ reason to question your sanity on your resume.

        • by rts008 (812749) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @12:20AM (#27412139) Journal

          Yeah, but you're missing something here.

          After I'm done, I can add 'NASA Mars Expedition Lab-Rat/Test-Monkey' to my resume!

          Now that's cool!

          Plus, I get $20,000 USD to move out of Mom's basement for three months...maybe she will get some of my laundry done while I'm gone!

          On the other hand, she will expect me to get a job when I get back. :-(

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            Plus, I get $20,000 USD to move out of Mom's basement for three months...maybe she will get some of my laundry done while I'm gone!

            I expect it's more likely her first priority will be to change the locks...

            • by rts008 (812749)

              If she's smart!

              *Disclaimer, I've been out of the house on my own since I was 17. I'm 51 now, and Mom lives 1,400 miles away.

          • by Joebert (946227)

            After I'm done, I can add 'NASA Mars Expedition Lab-Rat/Test-Monkey' to my resume!

            And be pretty much guaranteed never to get an office with a window once they find out what that actually entailed.

        • by khallow (566160)
          What's the hole? You've been employed for that time.
        • There's no hole at all. "I participated in an experiment for Roskosmos" is a perfectly reasonable explanation, assuming that they lost their jobs to participate. (I haven't read the article so IDK)
    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @11:59PM (#27411995)
      Or they make $73,000 a year. Not amazing money in some places, but a fortune in others. Also it is in a lump sum after no expenses.
    • by gapagos (1264716)

      1- It's inaccurate to count sleeping hours.
      2- You're forgetting that your living costs during those 3 months are virtually zero, as you're being provided food & shelter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by palegray.net (1195047)
      You should see what submariners get paid. Sounds about the same lifestyle-wise, aside from the addition of little things like knowing you're cruising around the under the ocean with nuclear ballistic missiles.
      • by creimer (824291)
        The ballistic missiles got it worse. They're stuck in a sub filled with Russians. They don't even have the option of committing suicide because their self-destruct mechanism is wired wrong.
        • Well, my boat wasn't filled with Russians; as far as I know, we only had a couple of guys of Eastern European descent :).
      • Whatever they get paid it's not enough, there packing them like sardines in a metal can throwing in a pile of explosives and a nuclear reactor and then shoving it so far underwater plate tectonics will take care of you before then can find the wreckage when soemthing goes wrong.

        • Reminds me of an old submarine joke:

          Q: How deep can the most advanced American submarines go?

          A: All the way to the bottom*.

          * Subsequent surfacing may be problematic.
    • $20,000/100 Days = $200 dollars, day.

      Which is about $6,000/month. Nod bad in Russia where the average monthly salary, according to Wikipedia, is $640.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ChinggisK (1133009)

      So... $20,000/100 Days = $200 dollars, day. $200/24 hours = $8.33/hour. Some people really need to do the math before going "OMG THATS A GREAT REWARD" >> Kudos to those running the experiment. Cheap labor is great.

      Pft, as a broke college student, I'd do it. It would sure beat flipping burgers for a summer job.

    • by slyn (1111419)

      "The purpose of the experiment is to analyse whether human beings are capable of co-existing in a small environment without showing signs of significant mental and physical deterioration"

      Is it april fools yet, or is this the dumbest study ever?

    • So... $20,000/100 Days = $200 dollars, day. $200/24 hours = $8.33/hour. Some people really need to do the math before going "OMG THATS A GREAT REWARD" >> Kudos to those running the experiment. Cheap labor is great.

      They also get room and board that whole time. Any volunteers that can completely disconnect from their housing payments would basically be pocketing over $6,000 a month they couldn't have done otherwise.

      Cheap labor is great, to those who can do math.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      You do realize that most 9-5 jobs are only 8 hours a day?

      Bump it up to 25 bucks an hour and you'll be mroe on the mark.

  • by V50 (248015) * on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @11:50PM (#27411923) Journal

    Such comfort is a far cry from experiments staged in Russia during the Soviet era. During one project in the 1970s, a group of volunteers was strapped to gurneys, tilted at an angle so their heads were 45 degrees below their feet, for six months, as part of a study on the impact of weightlessness on the human body. The volunteers were fed through tubes placed near their mouths.

    Well, that's one experiment I sure as hell wouldn't volunteer for.

    I wonder if the Soviet "volunteers" were voluntold. Or if they were only told that they were volunteering for a space exploration experiment, not the details. Heh.

    • I wouldn't be supervised that people would volunteer for even that. A lot of people are driven to contribute to something that is greater than themselves.
    • by Rakishi (759894)

      Soviets aren't the only ones doing those experiments and finding volunteers:
      http://www.esa.int/esaHS/SEM1YPVLWFE_research_0.html [esa.int]

      You basically get paid for lying around doing nothing while others take care of your needs. For many less fortunate people that's probably a massive improvement from their day to day lives. No need to worry about food, shelter, bills, crappy job and so on.

  • by Mr. Conrad (1461097) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @11:58PM (#27411979)
    A Russian, a German, and a Frenchman in an enclosed space for 3 months. Sure. I'd watch that. You'll know they've run out of ideas after someone invades Poland, though.

    "The crew...will spend the next 105 days living in a minimally furnished facility erected in a hanger..."
    Does that remind anyone else of their first semester in college?
  • They won't experience the lack of gravity that actual astronauts would experience.
    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @12:10AM (#27412069)

      I'm quite certain they didn't forget about it so much as they were wanting to examine the social aspects for cheaper than actually putting them in space.

    • by Fumus (1258966)
      I think they want to study the psychological impact of being together in a tiny room for long periods of time. Lower gravity is hard to simulate anyway.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bitrex (859228)
        The problem I see with this experiment is that, at least in my opinion, the greatest psychological stress that might come from a journey to Mars is not necessarily the confinement or the lack of gravity, but just the knowledge of the absolutely mind-bending number of kilometers between you and all the other humans in existence, and by extension any hope of aid if anything should go wrong. Even when things went to shit on Apollo 13, they could take some comfort that they were still within a day or two of Ea
  • Lousy marketing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @12:00AM (#27412003) Journal

    The amazing thing is that 5,600 people applied to be part of the experiment.

    I know it's not much to work with, but people won't apply if they don't know about it. They could have gotten an easy 1K more just by posting here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      They could have gotten an easy 1K more just by posting here.

      Mars simulation isolation experiment log book day one: FIRST POST!

      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @12:27AM (#27412177)

        Mars simulation isolation experiment log book day Two: Tensions running high between Russian volunteers and /. volunteers over constant "In soviet russia" jokes

        Mars simulation isolation experiment log book day three: ???

        Mars simulation isolation experiment log book day four: PROFIT!

        Mars simulation isolation experiment log book day five: Fighting broke out when /. volunteers found out ships computers were not running Linux, experiment ended, all /. volunteers are dead.

  • Considering the per capita GDP of Russia is $15,800 (meaning the average person makes less than that), I am surprised they didn't have MORE people volunteering. There must have been a lack of advertising or something.
  • A German engineer, a French airline pilot, and four Russians walk into a bar. The bartender says: ...
    • by Culture20 (968837)

      A German engineer, a French airline pilot, and four Russians walk into a bar. The bartender says: ...

      ...Didn't you see your friends hit the bar first? Blind leading the blind...

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      glad I am not Poland.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by kyjl (965702)

      What is this, some kind of joke?

    • A German engineer, a French airline pilot, and four Russians walk into a bar. The bartender says: ...

      "... Couldn't you idiots read the sign? It's plain as day! 'Danger, low hanging bar!' Cripes, even the dumb blonde got down low enough to avoid blows to her head."

  • by TadhgDagis (1366963) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @12:19AM (#27412127)

    "Working in such conditions requires that a person be able to check himself, evaluate his condition in relation to the crew and in relation to mission control and be able to correct himself," said Boris V. Marukov, the experiment's director and a former crew member on the International Space Station."

    Translating Ice Cube lyrics from Russian is terribly complicated.

    • by dada21 (163177)

      Wish I had modpoints.

      Now Das Efx is stuck in my head.

    • by teebob21 (947095)

      +1 Awesome.

      God I wish I had mod points...I read that part of the article and I knew somewhere, subconsiously, I had heard that broken English somewhere before. Thank you for the translation from Rooskie.

  • Problem solved! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Musenik (789539)
    Why is this effort treated as being difficult? Pack three indie game developers in a capsule for 100 days. They'll hardly talk with each other, and by the end of the trip, they'll complain to mission control they only just got their compilers working for their games' scripting languages!
    • by fractoid (1076465)
      +1, informative. :P

      Seriously, though, if they have enough spare computing power for the crew to work on hobby programming projects they'll barely notice the duration.
  • by Mal-2 (675116) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @12:26AM (#27412171) Homepage Journal

    They should be able to have communications -- just with ever-increasing latency simulating speed-of-light propagation delays on an actual voyage. At some point, bandwidth may fall off, and there will be the occasional bit of "space weather" to liven things up. It's not like a trip to Mars means instant cutoff from the world, but realtime communications would become problematic fairly quickly, and impractical not long after. Their communications should start looking more and more like e-mail every day.

    In an actual Mars mission, their communications will degrade in a fairly predictable manner (aside from space weather). Why not factor that into the experiment?

    Mal-2

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by iminplaya (723125)

      Their communications should start looking more and more like e-mail every day...Why not factor that into the experiment?

      Make 'em use Hotmail?...On dialup?

  • And this is why. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eil (82413) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @12:34AM (#27412203) Homepage Journal

    With a summary like that, who needs to RTFA?

  • by willoughby (1367773) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @12:43AM (#27412251)
    To run this story without a photo of the "female Canadian scientist". An outrage, indeed.

    Google is my next stop...
  • Simulating a mission to Mars..... Is that like 'Space Camp' for adults?

    I guess if I didn't mind two brief periods of action separated by 6 months of sleep, I'd have volunteered too.....

    • Simulating a mission to Mars..... Is that like 'Space Camp' for adults?

      Emphasis on the 'Camp'. Learning to deal with women in the crew would be invaluable for future missions (hint: make sure there's enough to go around).

      • "Emphasis on the 'Camp'. Learning to deal with women in the crew would be invaluable for future missions (hint: make sure there's enough to go around)."

        -----For minute I thought you mean't to spare men from the inevitable whining, high-pitched screaming, and bitching. It'll be like getting stuck in an expensive hen house. But your reasoning works quite well too.....

        • It'll be like getting stuck in an expensive hen house.

          That's a good point too. How would you stop their periods syncing up?

      • by h4rm0ny (722443)

        Or get rid of the men and just have all women. It were the men who were fighting, after all.
  • What idiot thought mixing people from different cultures (historically hostile ones, too) and then adding alcohol, for months at a time, was a good idea?

    You'll notice the opinion of the female Canadian was not included (typical Slashdot sexism). I bet she wouldn't have touched any of them with a bargepole.

  • by Shimmer (3036) <brianberns@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @02:12AM (#27412711) Homepage Journal

    Sexual harassment, rather than a soap opera.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6955149/page/3/ [msn.com]

    • by Inda (580031)
      How dare you post a URL with "page 3" in it and the resulting page not contain the pictures we were all hoping for.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by argStyopa (232550)

      Relevant and tragicomic bits from TFA (linked above, not the OP):
      "...together with her male associates from Japan and Austria appealed to their sponsoring agencies to discipline the offenders (Russian team members who had forcibly french-kissed her twice). But they were told that such behavior was the norm for Russians and that they should either tolerate it or leave the project. They were also told that Russian cultural patterns prohibited Lapierre from making a public complaint. ...
      When Lapierre's team fi

  • And every month, someone is voted off the capsule, just like they would in a real mission to mars.

    Probably a few intruders too, maybe Dr Spock, Marvin Martian, ET.

    Not sure I'm looking for 'Survivor - Mars - Up Late' though.

  • Wouldn't it be easier to put everyone in a chemically induced coma, hook them up to waste tubes, and feed them intraveinously. Schedule the coma to wear off a few weeks to a month before they're scheduled to arive.
    • Or, the ship's computer could bring them out of their comas when they reach their destination, assuming it hasn't unilaterally decided that they are a threat to the mission and terminated their life support.

  • Only men are involved this time, and no alcohol.

    I wonder, why only men and not a 100% women experiment ?

    (Hmmm, there's already a webcam, let's add alcohol to the mix...)

    Seriously, is there a reason ?

  • Only men are involved this time, and no alcohol.

    ... and probably no blackjack either.

    Scientists will keep a constant vigil on the team via cameras erected in each of the facility's three modules. Those who survive more than 100 days will earn a $20,000 reward.

    Is this a russian attempt at the Big Brother/Survivor franchise?

  • And its project's code name: Teo & Tea

  • We will NEVER be able to stick astronauts in absolute isolation for the periods of time conventional rockets will take to reach Mars. Our technology is too unreliable to risk lives so foolishly. The focus should be on next generation propulsion systems, not figuring out how small a space you can force humans to stay in for 2 years before they go insane.
  • Women Only (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squoozer (730327) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @05:18AM (#27413493)

    Here's a radical idea, why not do three experiments: men only, mixed and women only. Find out which group handles the isolation best. My guess is that it would be the women only group followed by the men only group.

    I think the women only group would handle it best because women are generally less aggressive and better communicators. Handling that sort of isolation will require people that can talk to each other for extended periods of time.

  • If the challenge is so much coping with sensory deprivation, why don't they simulate delayed communication with an "earth", give them a laptop with things to be occupied with simulated maintenance tasks, do some onboard training, sample analysis, ..?

    And why not research cultures who have to deal with sensory deprivation, as in Canada, Alaska, researches on the North Pole?

  • Programmers (Score:4, Informative)

    by steveoc (2661) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @08:17AM (#27414393)

    I was thinking that this experiment would be a breeze, if you just filled the capsule with a small team of coders .. and gave them 100 days straight of peace and quiet to actually work on the completely unrealistic specifications and deadlines that they may have on their plate at the moment.

    It would be most productive.

    But I am sure some management types would interfere in devious ways, and install a telephone in the capsule, so the coders would constantly field calls like these :

    - Hey guys, its me from accounts again. I know you are all 'busy' (suppressed chuckle), but could could just drop whatever you are doing, and have a look at my computer for a minute, I think I might have a virus .. just like I had last week. If its not too much effort, do you mind fixing it for me so I can get some 'real' work done. Thanks - oh, and make sure its fixed by lunchtime, because I have a dinner engagement tonight and have to leave at 5 on the dot.

    - Hey guys, its me from sales again. We promised a customer several weeks ago that we would provide them with this 'feature' that doesn't exist, and its now overdue. I know this is the first time we have bothered to tell you guys about this, but hey, its really important, so please get on it to immediately. It has to be ready by first thing tomorrow morning .. OK.

    - Hey guys, its me from customer support again. I know I have been doing this job for about 5 years now, but I still have no clue how the system operates. I have a customer on the phone you wants to know how they can change their account balance - but I cant find a field on the screen that lets them do that. They are getting irate !! Can you take the call for me please .. I am really busy with other stuff. Putting them through now, thanks.

    - Hey guys, its the company director. I have some VIPs here at the moment for a meeting, and I need the boardroom setup so the projector is connected to the internets. And have a look at my laptop whilst you are at it - it still pops up all those windows with that porn stuff. I thought you fixed that for good last week ? I need it fixed properly this time ! And by the way - why weren't you in the office at 8am this morning ? We had so many phone calls to answer, and you guys were nowhere to be seen. My patience is really wearing thin, we have to act as a team here !

    - Hey guys, its the company director's teenage son. Im playing CS at home and Im getting my ass handed to me by these n00bs. I reckon its because my gRaPhIcs card doesn't have enough memory. Can you guys pop down the computer shop and organise a decent upgrade part for me, ta. Dad said he would reimburse you next week, no probs. I need it ASAP, thanks guys.

    100 days of this crap, and I would be surprised if a team of coders, even in the relative peace, quiet and isolation of a soviet space capsule, would make a significant dent in the growing pile of work on their plates. Werll, at least during 'office hours' that is.

  • by BlogTheHaggis (1361307) on Wednesday April 01, 2009 @08:57AM (#27414753)
    I see why there are no Australians in the group...

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