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Mars Space Science

Six Men Endure 105-Day Mars Flight Simulator 274

Posted by Soulskill
from the riding-the-boredom-machine dept.
drunken_boxer777 writes with this excerpt from an AP report: "Six men emerged from a metal hatch after 105 days of isolation in a mock spacecraft, still smiling after testing the stresses that space travelers may face on the journey to Mars. They had no television or Internet and their only link to the outside world was communications with the experiment's controllers — who also monitored them via TV cameras — and an internal e-mail system. Communications with the outside world had 20-minute delays to imitate a real space flight."
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Six Men Endure 105-Day Mars Flight Simulator

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  • Wow. (Score:5, Funny)

    by XPeter (1429763) * on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:58AM (#28704971) Homepage

    Yeah yeah Mars...anyone can do that. 105 days with no TV or internet?

    I, for one, welcome our godlike astronaut overlords.

    • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Technoodle (1384623) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:01PM (#28705025)
      I find it useful to "unplug" from technology every once and a while, but 105 days? I would go crazy---Wait, I'm already there.
    • Physchology (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:11PM (#28705189) Journal

      Living in cramped quarters with a few other people for 105 days is not so big a deal. Reality would likely be far different. See, those 105 people *knew* that just outside the cramped wall was a big, beautiful, receptive planet, with air to breathe, beer to drink, and babes walking around to scope out. They are a day-flight away from home, wherever it be. Something go wrong? Darn, too bad. Simulation over, everybody have a beer and go home!

      But an actual, honest-to-god Mars trip is different, and everybody will know it. Just outside the cramped wall is the darkest, blackest, most incomprehensibly complete void mankind can fathom. No air, no beer, no babes. Nothing. And not just some nothing, MILLIONS of miles of nothing. Months of travel at speeds inconceivable to airlines flight. Something go wrong? Everybody's dead!

      Sure, just about anybody could live with this kind of stress for a while, but we're not talking about a while, we're talking about MONTHS of this kind of pressure. Many perfectly healthy, strong, capable people would crack under this kind of pressure. And even our best and brightest crack under the pressure [foxnews.com] of living here on Earth, with lots of air, beer, and pretty babes!

      The simulation is more of a publicity stunt, and it's appropriate. People want to try the trip, and that's A-OK. But do not think, even for a moment, that this gives particularly meaningful data on what a real Mars trip would be like!

      • by mcrbids (148650)

        EDIT: /"those 105 people"/"those people in there for 105 days"/

        Sheesh. Maybe I'll try preview next time?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:15PM (#28705265)

        So, what we should do is put people in a "mock spacecraft" for a "test" and launch them towards Mars. At the end of the 105 days they open the hatch and... surprise!

        • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:35PM (#28705597)
          Try for the fake moon colony first. I think NASA has some film sets they could lend you.
        • Didn't a British reality TV show do something like that?

        • We could name it "Project Magic Christian."
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Karganeth (1017580)
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Cadets [wikipedia.org] Yes, they managed to fool everyone in there into thinking that they were actually in space (until they led them out to their first space walk to an audience). The space ship had a gravity generator in it which is why there was no change in gravity strength. They didn't go insane.
          • by nizo (81281) *

            So the key is to send people who aren't very bright and don't even have a basic scientific education.

            "Oh I don't worry about holes in the ship; if the air starts to leak out we'll patch it with duct tape and open the box labeled 'emergency air' that is stashed under my bunk"

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Falconhell (1289630)

              So the key is to send people who aren't very bright and don't even have a basic scientific education.

              You want to send managers etc to mars? Hmmm not a bad idea,we could call it a "B" Ark. (-:

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by MobileMrX (855797)

        Here's the solution:

        "Hey guys, we are going to do one more simulation, just step over here. We've made some improvements that make this ULTRA realistic."

        Let them think it is a simulation until they get to Mars, then send them the "tricked you!" email when they get there.

      • Re:Physchology (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dr. Spork (142693) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:26PM (#28705447)

        I see it differently, and I think the test subject do too: If you're the first crew to Mars, you know every second that what you're doing is fucking important, and that you have a special privilege and responsibility, and that the whole world is watching you. I think it's pretty likely that under such circumstances the dude wouldn't have tried to fondle the hot Canadian chick. You'd keep a lid on it.

        Contrast that to an experiment where you basically have five people in railroad car undergoing isolation torture with dubious scientific value. Then you realize "you know, if I have nice bloody fistfight with Sergey, they'll cancel this stupid experiment, let me go home, and the jerk might even lose a tooth like he deserves to. All signs point to yes."

        So in summary, I'm saying that a real crew on its way to the actual planet Mars has many more reasons to be on their best behavior.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nizo (81281) *

          "You know, if there was an 'airlock accident' I could flush Segey out into space, and then I could have my way with one of my crewmates because, seriously, who can stop me?"

          Yeah I'm thinking the screening process will be pretty thorough for a Mars mission.

      • Re:Psychology (Score:4, Informative)

        by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:46PM (#28705757)
        You have to understand, though, the psyche of astronauts. There are two archetypes: Fighter pilots and scientists. These two types fit into a single archetype: Obsessive. The first astronauts were fighter pilots and test pilots. They were cocky, confident, and absolutely attention-whorish (It has to be ME up on that moon). Then, scientists trickled in. What type of scientist makes for a good astronaut? The kind that shrugs off a 10% chance of death from getting to the lab this morning. You put these guys in a simulator and they're looking for everything to go wrong. They want to get to Mars. They're probably stir-crazy in a simulator, but they have that obsessive eye on the prize. "This simulator is preparing me to go to Mars."

        If there ARE any problems or clashes onboard a Mars vessel, outside of the simulator, all they have to do is have one guy dedicated to saying "Guys, we're on our way to MARS!" and poof! Problems solved.

        For the typical you and me, we aren't QUITE so obsessive. Our trip to Mars would probably include some measure of space madness, but for the first groups, it's the non-psychological biology that needs to be tested rather than their mental fortitude. The people on those trips know they've got a 3% survival rate, and tends to be a very calming experience when volunteered for.
        • by Stele (9443)

          Our trip to Mars would probably include some measure of space madness...

          Then I hope they pack enough ice-cream bars!

      • by Tiger4 (840741)

        But an actual, honest-to-god Mars trip is different, and everybody will know it. Just outside the cramped wall is the darkest, blackest, most incomprehensibly complete void mankind can fathom. No air, no beer, no babes. Nothing.

        So you're saying that if they screw this up, they get kicked up to management?

      • Re:Physchology (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:55PM (#28705899) Homepage

        See, those 105 people *knew* that just outside the cramped wall was a big, beautiful, receptive planet, with air to breathe, beer to drink, and babes walking around to scope out.

        Believe it not, that makes it harder rather then easier. When I was making SSBN patrols for the USN, 'fast cruises' (simulating underway while tied up to the pier) were much harder knowing those things were so close. Actual patrols were easier because you knew they weren't close and thus weren't nearly so much a distraction.
         
         

        Sure, just about anybody could live with this kind of stress for a while, but we're not talking about a while, we're talking about MONTHS of this kind of pressure. Many perfectly healthy, strong, capable people would crack under this kind of pressure.

        Which is why they don't let just anyone go, just like the Submarine Service they pick preferentially from the right hand side of the bell curve. Sure, the occasional loon makes it through screening, but that doesn't disprove the whole concept.

        • Re:Physchology (Score:4, Informative)

          by Shinobi (19308) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @01:39PM (#28706419)

          "Believe it not, that makes it harder rather then easier. When I was making SSBN patrols for the USN, 'fast cruises' (simulating underway while tied up to the pier) were much harder knowing those things were so close. Actual patrols were easier because you knew they weren't close and thus weren't nearly so much a distraction."

          I'll second that. While not having done duty on a sub or similar, as preparation for a deployment with Swedish forces for UN ops in africa, we went through hothouse training. Basically, we had 2 weeks in a huge house with temperature and humidity ramped up to the levels we would encounter there. Knowing that just outside the walls were people drinking cool drinks, eating ice cream etc made it infinitely harder to endure than the real mission actually, on a psychological level.

      • Pretty sure i'd be more of a quitter part way on some stupid experiment on earth than I would in space. Even if it was just that there is no oxygen outside so you CAN'T quit.
      • I'm pretty sure they use people who've got the right... uhm, what do they call that stuff?

      • Re:Physchology (Score:5, Interesting)

        by McGregorMortis (536146) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @01:29PM (#28706299)

        Isaac Asimov wrote a short story along those lines. I can't remember the title. Massive spoilers here, though you can probably guess what they are just from the context of this reply...

        It's set in a space capsule on the way to the moon (it was written before the Apollo landings.) One of the men starts going kinda loopy during the long isolation, gets crazy ideas about Man's place in the universe, maybe it's all a big trick. When they finally reach the moon and start coming around to the dark side, which had never before been seen by human eyes, they see that the entire moon is just a gigantic stage prop with wooden struts and fabric stretched over it. The guy goes insane and tries to kill the others to keep the secret.

        Turns out the entire trip was actually a simulation, conducted in a research facility on Earth, though the crew didn't know it. The image of the moon they saw from their viewport was actually generated using a scale model of the moon and a tracking camera. The simulation was supposed to end before the camera came around to the far side of the moon, but the mission controllers forgot or were asleep or something.

        It's a cool story. Probably would have been cooler if you hadn't read this...

        • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:43PM (#28708049) Homepage

          It's a cool story. Probably would have been cooler if you hadn't read this...

          I dunno. I like Asimov, and I may read this story at some point, and I have to admit I'll be a little disappointed if the denouement doesn't include the phrase "but the mission controllers forgot or were asleep or something."

      • Is it a one for one comparison that gives you a perfect sim? No. But does it provide useful data? sure. To call it useless because it isn't a perfect sim is a bit silly.

        That's why they call them simulations. It can't expose all stress factors and no it isn't allowed to kill people to simulate death but that doesn't make it useless. Some stresses can be discovered and tested and dealt with. They psychologically tested the early Astronauts too. Again, was it a perfect sim? No but it wasn't useless an
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mistahkurtz (1047838)

        But do not think, even for a moment, that this gives particularly meaningful data on what a real Mars trip would be like!

        i see what you're saying, but i have to disagree some. remember the stanford prison experiment [wikipedia.org]? everyone there knew they were part of a study or an experiment, and yet they went well beyond what their described roles were, into some very dark places.

      • Re:Physchology (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Like2Byte (542992) <Like2Byte@yMONETahoo.com minus painter> on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:45PM (#28707291) Homepage

        I read your response and I liked it....mostly.

        Lest anyone disagree, he's pretty damn accurate. I'm a former submariner. I've lived through fires, suicides (not me, silly!) and other casualties that really scared the personnel and myself on board my submarine. Let's focus on what scared the shit out of me. Floating in the middle of the ocean with no hydraulic pressure to steer the ship, no hydraulics to open and close critical valve's to safety-of-ship systems, limited fuel and using reactor power is now out of the question, bobbing on the ocean for three full days in heavy sea state. Since the reactor was placed in a 'safe' state, we used our diesel engine (yes, just 1!) to power critical systems. Limited lighting and ventilation only.

        None of us were too sure if we'd make it back alive and/or in one piece. The only thing we had going for us is that we could still pull fresh oxygen into the boat. Oh, and the captain secured drills for the remainder of the cruise. He always made us run drills. Always except this time.

        We had it made.

        Now for the 'mostly' part. And this is the fun stuff.

        You got 6 guys here who basically 'behaved' during the simulation. Wait till 60 days begins to set in. They'll start screwing with each other's minds. Trust me.

        We used to lock people in their bunks by raising the hinged bunk and placing the support bar in its lock to keep it raised at 45 deg with the victim in it. For our astro buddies, Straps to keep you in your bunk will strangely become stuck with another victim in them.

        Personal items will be held for ransom by some unknown assailant. Pictures will be posted of said personal item every few weeks. Sometimes with pieces of it missing, often being torn off of it...violently. Sometimes there are doubles of the items so as not to really destroy the object. Other times it's the real thing and your personal device is being destroyed!

        Food will be contaminated. That's all I'm saying.

        Why beat and a man down when you can slowly enjoy watch him tear himself apart because of the things that are subversively committed against him.

        I'm no prophet here; but, I'm sure that as space travel becomes routine there are people that are going to enjoy tormenting others endlessly. Just like here on Earth. Ah, smell that fresh air.

    • by Bigby (659157)

      Luckily they bring the ladies along; that eliminates the need for the Internet and TV.

    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:14PM (#28705255) Homepage
      Nice test, but of course a Hohmann trajectory to Mars takes nine months-- 275 days, not 105. They exited the spacecraft when they were only halfway there!
      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:21PM (#28705361)

        Nice test, but of course a Hohmann trajectory to Mars takes nine months-- 275 days, not 105.

        True enough. However, the most likely trajectory will be an Earth-return trajectory, so that they'll come back here if something goes wrong along the way. Which is only 180 days long.

        So they made it MORE than halfway before they exited the spacecraft, not less than halfway...

        Note, by the way, that some of the crews of Mir spent six months on Mir, which is smaller than a Mars craft is likely to be.

        • I don't know about you, but if *I* went to Mars, I'd sure as hell want to come back to Earth afterwards. So let's say 180 days there + 180 days return = basically one entire year spent in transit.

          Sure, *after* there is a base constructed on Mars, things will be easier - but it will take many working trips until such a base could be completed. Before that, you're not only travelling to and fro in cramped quarters, you're living in cramped quarters while you're there.
        • by nizo (81281) * on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:23PM (#28707037) Homepage Journal

          Maybe they have a working antimatter drive?

          Another significant advantage is speed. The Reference Mission spacecraft would take astronauts to Mars in about 180 days. "Our advanced designs, like the gas core and the ablative engine concepts, could take astronauts to Mars in half that time, and perhaps even in as little as 45 days," said Kirby Meyer, an engineer with Positronics Research on the study.

          http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/home/antimatter_spaceship.html [nasa.gov]

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by T.E.D. (34228)

          Note, by the way, that some of the crews of Mir spent six months on Mir, which is smaller than a Mars craft is likely to be.

          Yeah, but those were Russians. The Mir was probably a lot nicer and roomier than their apartments back home.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Note, by the way, that some of the crews of Mir spent six months on Mir, which is smaller than a Mars craft is likely to be.

            Yeah, but those were Russians.

            Not all of them-- Shannon Lucid [nasa.gov] spent six months on Mir.

      • by Tiger4 (840741)

        They don't have to take a Hohmann trajectory. That is the least energy path, but not the only path. If we spent the money on better propulsion and more fuel, they'd get their sooner.

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      Maybe I'm missing something, but why exactly do they have to go without TV and internet? Is there a significant technical problem beaming a lot of bandwidth that far? What about text-only internet?

      Yes, I realize there'd be a large time lag, but having web pages come up 20-30 minutes after loading them is better than not seeing them at all. If I'm bored, I can read Wikipedia pages, opening new ones in separate tabs and reading already-loaded ones while waiting for the new ones to load.

      If they can receive

      • by Bigby (659157)

        The issue isn't data. It is power. Should excess power be used for TV or for something that has more value. By value, I don't necessarily mean scientific value, but even entertainment value.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          As I said to someone else, a generator could be easily fitted to an exercise cycle to power low-power stuff like this.

          Besides, this ship would probably need nuclear propulsion. Power should be plentiful.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Why not just send them off with 3 or 4 terabyte hard drives filled with movies. Sure it would use a little bit of power to power screen and stuff to show the movie, but I'd opt for having an extra solar panel over having absolutely nothing for these guys to do for 105 days.
        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Yep. At the very least, bring a Kindle packed with books to read (can't really bring real books because they weigh too much). You can use one of those hand-powered generators to run a Kindle.

        • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Funny)

          by cdrudge (68377) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:45PM (#28708067) Homepage

          We could supply them with all sorts of great movies to help keep their mental state in peak form...Lost in Space, Apollo 13, Armageddon, Deep Impact, Red Planet, ...

  • by jack2000 (1178961) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:02PM (#28705059)
    Give em the newest rpg(or jrpg grinder if you like). Make the story and game so it updates their world with earth's servers on par with the delays and there you go. Next thing you know they wouldn't want to leave the ship. Or if rts is their fancy ... well you got the idea...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Zakabog (603757)
      Unless of course the astronauts don't like video games...
    • by MBGMorden (803437)

      That's not really a bad idea. While I hate to sound like the nerd that I am (and I'm not as bad in real life at all), I really think I could make it through the time required if they gave me a few 1TB hard drives full of Divx movies and a few dozen console or computer games to play with. Particularly if they setup data transfer to and from Earth for certain things. Give them email access (email works FINE with 20 minute latency), and have them choose a handful of websites which could be cached and update

    • by Graff (532189)

      Give em the newest rpg(or jrpg grinder if you like). Make the story and game so it updates their world with earth's servers on par with the delays and there you go.

      Pfft, have you SEEN the drama that some guilds go through in RPGs? They'll get stuck on some boss and then one of the guys will mysteriously get a stomach bug or his cat will spontaneously combust and he'll have to bail. Next thing you know they'll split into small groups who will shout insults at each other and try to recruit more people to finish the raid from the Chinese space ship a few million kilometers away. It will just disintegrate into chaos!

    • by johannesg (664142)

      Give em the newest rpg(or jrpg grinder if you like). Make the story and game so it updates their world with earth's servers on par with the delays and there you go.
      Next thing you know they wouldn't want to leave the ship.
      Or if rts is their fancy ... well you got the idea...

      RTS?

      Look, I need to explain something to you. Colonies have this way of becoming independent, in the end, and we should _not_ be training to think of conquest as their most important hobby for when that time comes.

      They can have a copy of Animal Crossing if they want.

  • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:03PM (#28705083) Homepage

    I would have thought that would be an easy thing to provide them for mental stimulation on a long boring journey. Couple of laptops with few thousand hours of video, games, website snapshots, virtual environments to explore.

    • Where exactly are you going to get your TV/Internet signal from in space?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268)

        What kind of dumb question is this? Perhaps the same way they already receive other communications signals from Earth? How do you think the Mars landers communicate with Earth?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          How do you think the Mars landers communicate with Earth?

          I think they waited approximately fifteen minutes for the signal to travel each direction. Would you want your HTTP requests to take fifteen minutes? You'd lose your stiff every time you clicked to the next porn image.

    • I would have thought that would be an easy thing to provide them for mental stimulation on a long boring journey. Couple of laptops with few thousand hours of video, games, website snapshots, virtual environments to explore.

      The question you ask in your subject ("Why no TV/Internet?") and the answer you provide are, to some extent, apples and oranges.

      They had no [live] TV/internet because a real space craft headed even to the Moon, let alone Mars, would have such access. A laptop loaded as your prop

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:06PM (#28705115)
    Mission to Mars: Day 336

    "STOP. FARTING."

    • by deglr6328 (150198)

      Future generations of historians will be studying the journals of whoever does go on the first Mars mission for decades.

      Day: 428

      I tossed off Dave again today for what must've been the 50th time. Jesus he produces an ungodly amount o..... oh shit, the computer's just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours. Damnit!

  • Wow, I get to see this in my lifetime. The building blocks of a conspiracy theory.

    If they ever do manage to land on Mars the conspiracy theorists will now point to this and say "see they SAY they built it as a simulator but REALLY that's where they faked the entire Mars landing! Why else would they need to build such a simulator!" Very much like the lunar surface simulator they built out in the desert, or the landing simulator MIT built for the moon landings. Oh well...
    • by Urban Garlic (447282) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:20PM (#28705359)

      > If they ever do manage to land on Mars...

      Hah, you *fool*, you've already fallen for it! You think this is a simulator? The government has been secretly colonizing Mars for years now, they just spin these "simulator" stories to "explain" why certain individual astronauts are out of touch for long periods of time. You think mere robots could do what the recent Mars probes and rovers have done? Oh, no. They can go to Mars whenever they want.

      But they are POWERLESS against my ALL CAPS and "inappropriate" quoting! I "shall" EXPOSE them!

    • There was a movie about a faked manned Mars landing titled "Capricorn One".

      I know that supposedly art imitates life, but life imitating movies?

    • by igny (716218)
      That is why they should not use the tin-foil enthusiasts in these experiments. They may later claim that they were tricked into doing this simulation but instead they were taken to Mars and brought back.
  • Uh, DVR? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:08PM (#28705153)
    It wouldn't be too difficult to pack a few hard drives or SSDs with a few thousand movies and episodes of TV shows. Ironically, while it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to buy all those DVDs and rip them, it would cost a lot more money to send the media holding the video files to mars. There would be a lengthy time-lag for emails, but that's little different than email is already.
    • Re:Uh, DVR? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Captain Spam (66120) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:25PM (#28705441) Homepage

      It wouldn't be too difficult to pack a few hard drives or SSDs with a few thousand movies and episodes of TV shows.

      Except, as soon as word got out of them flipping the first bit on the drive during the copy operation, the MPAA/RIAA/ABC/CBS/NBC/etc would be down their necks, complaining to their congresspeople about how much more important their anti-piracy efforts are over scientific discovery, cosmic exploration, and our astronauts not going insane during a nearly one-third year flight. And then they'd add a few extra trillion in to the "potential lost sales" figures they flaunt due to the Martians the astronauts would potentially be sharing the movies with who would then not buy the movies.

      Then they'd bitch about making sure there's DRM on the spacecraft (jacking up the price and complexity) and make excuses that a 40-minute round-trip communication back to the central servers on earth every X minutes of playback is a perfectly reasonable compromise to make "sure" it doesn't fall into the wrong hands, and would try their damndest to delay the launch until they could convince the entire judicial branch of the United States government to quite cheerfully treat the astronauts like potential criminals.

      I mean, other than THAT, it'd be a perfectly reasonable idea.

  • Sounds like they should add an Xbox360 or a PS3 to the supply list. They can practice their hand-to-eye coordination just in case of hostile little-green-men
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Mars Journal Day 4:
      Turned on XB360 and got the RROD... f***k

  • by B5_geek (638928) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:14PM (#28705253)

    This is a perfect marketing opportunity for an E-Book reader. A device like a Kindle that gets VERY long battery life + can hold MANY books would be the perfect design for the weight conscious space launch, limited electrical supply, and low-bandwidth data link (email).

    If I were to spend 200+ days in transit I would want a lot of reading material. All duties become dull and repetitive, it's the down-time that will drive a man insane from boredom.

  • Real isolation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2NO@SPAMgdargaud.net> on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:15PM (#28705271) Homepage
    If you want to know what 365 days in real isolation in a tin can [gdargaud.net] feels like... At least we had: (1) plenty of things to do, (2) the pressure that if we failed bad we'd most likely die. They had: (1) nothing to do, (2) the possibility to open the can if things got bad...
  • by kurtb149 (578487) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:20PM (#28705349) Homepage
    When I was on a US Navy, FBM submarine, we typically spent 105 days submerged, with no contact from the outside world. It was not fun, but it was not that hard either.
    • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:25PM (#28705421) Homepage Journal

      I was just going to post that, if NASA needs people that can spend months in space, they can go Navy... like, when they got Alan Shepard.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        I've been saying that for years (and not just because I'm USN/Submarine service). The fighter jock mentality that worked so well for Mercury works less well as missions become longer and more demanding - but the submariner mentality is perfectly suited for such missions.

        On the subject of Alan Shepard - I once saw a study that showed that NASA (probably unconsciously) tended to select Naval and Marine aviators over USAF pilots for mission command and pilot slots. Not overwhelming so, but the ratio

      • by VoxMagis (1036530)

        I've always felt that perhaps we really do look for Astronauts in the wrong place. It seems to me the modern space traveler should come from submariners rather than pilots.

        Able to spend huge amounts of time in a metal tube with no release, no room and little if any privacy? Check
        Able to solve problems from inside said tube? Check

    • True, but deep down, you still knew that if needs *really really* must, you were a few minutes from surfacing, and at most, a day or two from home.

      50 days into that trip to Mars, on the other hand....

  • They had no television

    Easy. I hardly watch TV any more, with all the bullshit that's usually on...

    or Internet and

    That's already lots harder... but I might muster enough willpower...

    their only link to the outside world was communications with the experiment's controllers

    ...

    â" who also monitored them via TV cameras â"

    O gosh! That's cruel. No privacy for a quick handjob... 105 days without wanking, o the inhumanity!

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @12:52PM (#28705851)
    OK, the Mir space station was probably much roomier than any likely Mars spaceship, but it's worth noting that people stayed up there for a year at a time, and there were no fistfights, gropings, or any other such silliness. I'm sure the Russian space agency has reams of psychological data from Mir.

    The value I see in this is that if you repeat such experiments many times, you can start testing theories about the interaction of certain personality types, and also test theories about choosing optimal group sizes, gender mix, degree of contact with Earth (less might actually be better). Also, I know that Mir cosmonauts frequently got pissed off because they were given too much work. Experiments like this could establish an appropriate threshold for "minimum necessary slack time".

    OK, I take it back - maybe there is a lot to be learned from experiments like this. As a bonus they're absurdly cheap (as a fraction of the total Mars mission cost) and if repeated often enough, they really might help (in unexpected ways) with planning a mission which is least likely to fail.

    (Though it's worth adding that if the actual Mars astronauts got into bloody fistfights and sexually harassed the hot Canadian crewmate, Americans might actually tune in and learn more astronomy sort of by accident. Hmm, maybe Rupert Murdoch should fund the mission and give FOX/Sky broadcast rights to what would surely be the most watched reality show in all of history!)

    • (Though it's worth adding that if the actual Mars astronauts got into bloody fistfights and sexually harassed the hot Canadian crewmate, Americans might actually tune in and learn more astronomy sort of by accident. Hmm, maybe Rupert Murdoch should fund the mission and give FOX/Sky broadcast rights to what would surely be the most watched reality show in all of history!)

      http://www.hulu.com/watch/80030/virtuality [hulu.com]

  • to: Commander Bob
    fr: Commander Tom
    subj: Your leg

    Hi Bob, could you move your leg? It's blocking my mouth.

    Thanks, Tom

  • They had no television or Internet and their only link to the outside world was communications with the experiment's controllers -- who also monitored them via TV cameras -- and an internal e-mail system. Communications with the outside world had 20-minute delays to imitate a real space flight.

    Why would we subject astronauts to "no Internet"? OK, they couldn't use our "World" -wide apps that depend on low latency. But an "internet" (small "i", not the unified public one) would be a perfect tech to keep thei

  • if my insight into the delay is correct, we're set to use microsoft Exchange for interstellar email.
  • Better than their first attempt:

    "The experiment was the second for the institute, whose previous effort in 1999 ended in scandal when a Canadian woman complained of being forcibly kissed by a Russian captain and said that two Russian crew members had a fist fight that left blood splattered on the walls."

    Moral of the story don't put hot Canadian women on board unless you want all the men to fight over her.

    Hey isn't there a launch today with a Canadian woman on board?

    Nooooooooooooo!

    Also note that this success

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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