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Mars Space Science

Volunteers Wanted For Simulated 520-Day Mars Trip 356

Posted by timothy
from the represent-slashdot-there dept.
anglico writes 'Starting in 2010, an international crew of six will simulate a 520-day round-trip to Mars, including a 30-day stay on the martian surface. In reality, they will live and work in a sealed facility in Moscow, Russia, to investigate the psychological and medical aspects of a long-duration space mission. ESA is looking for European volunteers to take part.'
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Volunteers Wanted For Simulated 520-Day Mars Trip

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  • by tool462 (677306) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:08PM (#29826209)

    Mars goes to you!

    Okay, now that's out of the way, only intelligent discussion from here on out. Come on Slashdot, I know you can do it.

    • by mister_playboy (1474163) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:14PM (#29826303)

      I say they should make a porno, actually. Who doesn't want to do what sex on other planets will be like?

      Granted, many of us here on /. don't even know what sex on this planet is like... :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Of course we know what sex is like.

        It involves a high-speed internet connection and a hand, right?

        • by secolactico (519805) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:30PM (#29831623) Journal

          And thank goodness for broadband.

          Remember the days of 300/1200 baud dialup? That Pamela Anderson download would be halfway thru her chest and you would already be done.

          And I know I'm dating myself (besides in *that* sense). Not because of the 300 baud reference, but by referring to Pam Anderson as fap-worthy material.

      • by Razzious (313108) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:20PM (#29827253)

        If the Martian were underage it could bring a new meaning to "illegal alien"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JWSmythe (446288)

        Psst. Wanna know a secret?

        If you get a sufficiently sized group with at least one person of each sex, and they are confined in a space long enough (like a simulated spaceship), there will be sex going on soon enough.

        Hell, they've made all kinds of laws about sex in the workplace. Anyone who's ever worked in an office should be able to recount their sexual harassment training. Regardless of the training, office romances start, and some of them never leave the o

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:25PM (#29826489) Homepage Journal

      only intelligent discussion from here on out.

      Yeah, like that's going to happen...

      • by bsDaemon (87307)
        Hey, he only said intelligent... he didn't say serious or topical. We can get on with the smart and poignant wit now. w00t!
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by davester666 (731373)

          It needs an element of reality, such as a vacuum chamber around the compartments/rooms these pseudo-astro/cosmo/euronauts will use, and if a leak is detected, the area along with the -nauts all get blown up...

    • by MoxFulder (159829) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:05PM (#29827043) Homepage

      ESA is looking for European volunteers to take part.

      WTF!?

      If I were going on a trip to Mars, the last thing I'd take along would be some techno-listening Eurotrash with unreasonable demands for prompt health care and a propensity for labor unrest. Hell, with their thin figures and tight jeans, some Eurotrashtronaut might get sucked out of the spacecraft through some any ol' tiny tear in the outer wall.

      Don't they need any good old corn-fed Midwestern American boys on this mission? Sign me up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is there any way we can combine this into an interdisciplinary role with the marijuane reviewer job?

      http://idle.slashdot.org/story/09/10/21/1535217/Colorado-Newspaper-Looking-for-Marijuana-Reviewer

      I mean WOW

      "Hey what did you do this year?"
      "Oh systems analysis, architecture, etc. How about you?"
      "I WAS STONED ON MARS"

  • This is not new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ceiynt (993620) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:09PM (#29826219)
    See: Biodome. The failed movie or the failed experiment.
    • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:40PM (#29826701) Journal

      See: Biodome. The failed movie or the failed experiment.

      Biodome was a different kind of experiment. There, they were trying to create a self-sustaining Martian colony. The Russians are conducting a much simpler experiment...stick a bunch of people into a metal tube for year and a half and see if they go looney or not. From the article, it doesn't mention if the mission has to live on the same water or not, or a slowly dwindling food supply. But, that is probably secondary to the just-as-dangerous mental effects isolation being targeted for study.

      • by Ceiynt (993620)
        Have they not seen the last 15 years of MTV? The Real World will tell them all they need to know about putting a group of strangers together in a tight space for an extended time.
        • except that it won't be vapid, over-privileged 20-somethings that are fed with alcohol to increase the likelihood of fights and random sex.

          ahem. not that i have watched the show, or something.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Tablizer (95088)

        The Russians are conducting a much simpler experiment...stick a bunch of people into a metal tube for year and a half and see if they go looney or not.

        All they have to do is check last century's Gulag records.
               

      • Re:This is not new (Score:5, Informative)

        by damburger (981828) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:22PM (#29827285)
        Biodome wasn't good science, if I can remember correctly. Beneath a very reasonable idea (trying to create a self-contained artificial biosphere that can support humans) there was a lot of hippie crap thrown in; things about trying to replicate every different ecosystem found on earth, and having rock pools and stuff. Thing is, the whole grow-plants-to-let-the-humans-breathe idea was well explored by the Soviets decades earlier - rather than piss around creating a Zen garden they just used boring old algae beds. And they, AFAIK, didn't need an injection of oxygen half way through the experiment.
        • Re:This is not new (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Monkey (795756) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:31PM (#29827401)
          On the other hand, a mars colony is basacly going to be a hamster cage for people. Imagine living with just four plastic walls and an algae tank to look at. It would be like work without internet. I would rather have rock pools and some place to pretend I was on earth.
          • Re:This is not new (Score:5, Insightful)

            by EdIII (1114411) * on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @05:29PM (#29829005)

            I would rather have rock pools and some place to pretend I was on earth.

            Fuck pretending about Earth. I would rather have the masturbation pod. Some sort of self-sustaining lubricant producing plant, mood lighting, and all the latest porn transmitted from Earth. Give the women a Sybian or some equivalent shit too.

            I guarantee you an hour a day in one of THOSE pods and I just might not mind looking at bunch of plastic walls and algae tanks. Or to put it another way... without the masturbation pods I guarantee you they will be sending up a 2nd mission to find out what went wrong with the 1st mission.

            • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @11:09AM (#29835447)

              Some sort of self-sustaining lubricant producing plant, mood lighting, and all the latest porn transmitted from Earth. Give the women a Sybian or some equivalent shit too.

              Only on Slashdot would someone trying to use sex to stave off boredom, in a mixed gender pool, suggest everyone be given masterbatory aides.

              And only on Slashdot would it be modded insightful.

        • rock pools and stuff

          From "Horse With No Name

          There were plants and birds and rocks and things...

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        They already did this, read the logs of all the Mir space station missions....

    • Re:This is not new (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:04PM (#29827033) Journal

      An experiment is only a failure if you don't learn anything from it.

    • Re:This is not new (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:20PM (#29828087) Homepage

      See: Biodome. The failed movie or the failed experiment.

       
      Biosphere 2 was designed by ecological mystics with a minimum of engineering and scientific support to meet specific environmental, ecological, philosophical, and quasi-religious goals. This lead them to make many costly errors;

      • They tried to leap from a laboratory bench experiment to a full scale operating facility, which lead to many problems.
      • They were well along in construction before the discovered the windows wouldn't work - resulting a lengthy and expensive delay to develop new windows.
      • Late in construction they discovered that they hadn't accounted for changes in atmospheric volume due to temperature changes - resulting in the (expensive) last minute addition of the 'lungs'.
      • They never ran a small scale simulation with animals and insects, or a small scale simulation long enough to allow plants to spread - resulting in the discovery of multiple nasty interactions between the various ecological elements inside Biosphere.
      • Because of the lengthy delays in construction and the lack of scientific and engineering rigor in the design of the 'experiment' they rushed to perform the first lockout mission - without properly testing and commissioning the facility.
      • The 'Bionauts' were chosen on the basis of political and philosophical correctness and acceptability rather than being a properly selected and trained team.

      Etc... etc... etc..
       
      In short, Biosphere 2 isn't a valid standard to judge such experiments by. Sadly, it was such a highly visible flop and so few people are aware of the reasons why, they've poisoned the well for decades and rendered it difficult for actual scientists and engineers to gain funding and acceptance for such work. As shown by your comment...

  • Let them play WOW (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:14PM (#29826283) Homepage Journal

    I figure it this way. They need to pass a lot of downtime. Let them play a MMORPG. Then if your really creative you can let them farm gold and pay for the trip by selling the gold and characters they create.

    Well I am kind of serious about the first part. Its going to take something highly addictive to keep them occupied during the trip there and back. Certain types of games would do it just fine. If you could find a way of combining learning into them all the better, but in some ways mindless entertainment may be key.

    • Re:Let them play WOW (Score:5, Informative)

      by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:23PM (#29826447) Homepage Journal
      The lag is going to be murder once they get a good distance to Mars.

      It should be noted that NASA has long had a problem with the reality of space flight vs. their selection process. Their astronaut selection process tends to weed out all but the most motivated adventurous go-getters who tend to go crazy when asked to do basically nothing for 6 months.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mewsenews (251487)

        Their astronaut selection process tends to weed out all but the most motivated adventurous go-getters who tend to go crazy when asked to do basically nothing for 6 months.

        Amen! As I understand it the first astronauts were test pilots, familiar with confined cockpits, long periods of total boredom, and incredible risk of a human roasting giant fireball. Why they ever went away from those men with way too much bravado, I'll never know.

      • by S77IM (1371931) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:48PM (#29826827)

        "We're going to lock you in this metal box, blast it into outer space on a giant pile of explosives, and then you'll drink your own urine for 6 months and crash-land in the ocean."

        I think that kind of requires an adventurous go-getter attitude.

          -- 77IM

      • by cpotoso (606303)
        Indeed, they should instead select a bunch of couch potatoes that will be more than happy to play video games all day for many months!
      • by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:50PM (#29828539)

        Why are they going to do nothing? Do people on the ISS sit around and do nothing while they are there?

        They would most certainly be running experiments for the duration of the trip, both directions. It would waste a lot of time if they just sit there, and all the energy expended to get the thing up there and moving on its way could at least be useful to some experiments.

        Don't think of it as sending a ship to Mars. Think of it as sending the ISS to Mars. There would likely be plenty to do.

    • by icebrain (944107) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:27PM (#29826519)

      It's kinda hard to play real-time interactive games when you're dealing with round-trip signal times of up to 40 minutes... I think that would knock out MMO games. Now something like split-screen Halo, on the other hand, doesn't require that, but is more likely to forment anger amongst the crew.

      On the gripping hand, the old naval solution would probably work best. That is, keep the crew occupied with enough busywork that they don't have time to piss each other off. This was the standard practice on old sailing men of war; you needed large crews for combat/damage repair and for certain shipkeeping tasks, but otherwise they sat around with little to do. Hence, rituals of inspection, holystoning the deck, etc. This is also why modern crew-reduction initiatives on ships can backfire; smaller crews have a harder time performing damage control than larger ones.

      Anyways, for a Mars mission you need a lot of crew for the surface exploration in order to get as much data as possible; the cruise phases (for the most part) have little for them to do. They'd likely be occoupied running different experiments and performing regular maintenance, and exercising (a lot) rather than just being couch kudzu.

      • by turing_m (1030530) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @05:38PM (#29829119)

        It's kinda hard to play real-time interactive games when you're dealing with round-trip signal times of up to 40 minutes... I think that would knock out MMO games.

        Posting to slashdot would still work well enough, although you'd cop more -1 redundants than normal. Otherwise I guess you could play single player games. Like System Shock, or Doom for example. What could possibly go wrong?

    • by DavidTC (10147)

      They couldn't play normal WoW, because of the lag.

      I am assuming that this 'trip' will correctly simulate speed-of-light delay, right? And bandwidth issues?

      From what I can tell, they're not simulating the technical aspects of the trip, just 'locked up for 17 months', just the social ones, but hopefully they're doing that. (And even stuff like 'Okay, today we made it to Mars, so you're going to have to run around like madmen for a few hours pushing whatever button we light up to simulate the stress and work

      • by i.r.id10t (595143)

        A lot of the social issues are well studied already, or at least should be. For example, submarine service in the various navies of the world.

        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:49PM (#29826847)

          A lot of the social issues are well studied already, or at least should be. For example, submarine service in the various navies of the world.

          Speaking from experience as a submariner, I must disagree.

          Among other differences are the rather large size of the boat's crew (comparatively speaking) and the mission duration.

          For a submarine, four months is a long voyage.

          And there aren't enough ways to divvy up six guys so that you can rearrange things so that two guys getting on each other's nerves can be kept apart.

          • Re:Let them play WOW (Score:5, Interesting)

            by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:18PM (#29828057) Journal
            The duration of the mission is the problem. Hormones will cause problems over an extended period with a small unisex crew, or a mixed crew of any size.
            For example, with one third of its crew female, the USS Acadia acquired the sobriquet "the love boat". In a single deployment to the Persian Gulf in late 1990, 36 members of its crew got pregnant.
            • by PaganRitual (551879) <splaga@inte r n o d e . o n . net> on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @07:04PM (#29829979)

              The freaky part is that only 28 members of the crew were female.

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      Mindlessly addictive games seem like exactly the wrong approach to pass the time. You might as well just put them in a light coma instead. On the other hand, I would pay for 520-day sabbatical from the world during which I could write and illustrate a graphic novel, or some other creative pursuit that's otherwise frustrated by the distractions of Life On Earth. Also give me some ebooks to read, and maybe a limited quantity of mindless passive entertainment for seasoning, and I'd be happy.

      • by Yetihehe (971185)

        Also give me some ebooks to read

        Ebooks would be the only choice on such trip. During 520 days I could read more paper books than I weigh.

        • by daveime (1253762)

          At least with the lag time to Mars, they'd get a chance to read it before the DRM server wipes it from their Kindles.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by tverbeek (457094)

          During 520 days I could read more paper books than I weigh.

          But how would you measure that in freefall? :)

    • For the real trip to Mars, any direct connection to the Internet will (obviously) be futile, but I think that they would do well to give each astronaut a souped up PC with several TB of hard drive space, full to the brim with games, movies, music, e-books, and whatever else they might want. They could even set up a LAN and wallop on each other in Starcraft 2 or something. Or maybe include another computer as a dedicated server for MW2. The possibilities are endless!
    • Relativity (Score:3, Funny)

      by Korbeau (913903)

      An astronaut playing WoW during a 520 days trip to Mars while moving near the speed of light could barely get his character to level 40, while in the same time-span on earth his identical twin will easily have maxed the gear of 3 different characters.

      (of course, one might argue that the astronaut simply is a n00b)

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Let them play a MMORPG. To make it more realistic, make the ping times increase gradually to about 2 weeks at the end of the 520 day experiment. That'll show 'em!
  • Day 4 (Score:5, Funny)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:22PM (#29826435)

    Mars needs women!

  • so there aren't any extra unplanned astronauts to arrive on "mars"

  • Volunteers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hardihoot (1044510) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:31PM (#29826573)
    Okay, this might sound a little naive, but why can't they use people who have long prison sentences but are not severely criminal? The data gained concerning space travel could allow these people to contribute to society when otherwise they would just be rotting in a cell.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160)

      Okay, this might sound a little naive, but why can't they use people who have long prison sentences but are not severely criminal? The data gained concerning space travel could allow these people to contribute to society when otherwise they would just be rotting in a cell.

      Two things. First, what information would these prisoners provide? I'm reminded of a novel I read where secret US agencies engaged in medical experiments to develop yet another supersoldier. They were excited at getting a real doctor as a test subject. The reason was because they got someone who could contribute and understand what was going on with his own body rather than "It hurts, Doc."

      Second, prisoners aren't the people that would be sent to Mars for a real mission. One of the things that will be te

      • by daveime (1253762)

        There are plenty of examples of small groups making do in an isolated environment for years at a time

        The Amish ? Scientologists ?

    • by daveime (1253762)

      I hear Bernie Madoff isn't too busy for the foreseeable future ...

      By the time they get to Mars, they won't have any shirts ... if he hasn't already sold the spacecraft to someone in Washington.

  • by mandark1967 (630856) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:39PM (#29826687) Homepage Journal

    that one of the volunteers spends each of those 520 days asking, "Are we there yet?!" over and over...

  • I've always thought submarine crews would be better suited to space travel than Air Force test pilots. They need people who can deal with being in small, confined, pressurized vessels for long stretches of time without being able to go outside. And they wouldn't insist on having a window and control stick!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by UnknownSoldier (67820)

      That's a good point.

      Of course I have to wonder about the validity of the psychological effects. In a simulation you _know_ when it is over, "Earth" is just an "exit door" away. On Mars, you are putting your life on the line and don't have your support system (friends, family) "next door" so to speak.

  • by Spencerian (465343) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:45PM (#29826789) Homepage Journal

    The United States Congress.

    We won't miss them, really. How many more new laws do we need? Seriously.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Greyfox (87712)
      We could tell them that some sort of... space goat... is threatening Earth and that the most important people must be the first to evacuate...
  • Communications lag (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rolgar (556636) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:57PM (#29826949)

    I wonder if the monitoring the psychological effects of the experiment would include adding an increasing the amount of lag between when the isolated crew send a message to Mission Control, and when they get a response back. After all, instant response would make the crew feel like mission control were just a phone call away. Also, wouldn't the atmosphere of the environment be different, because you would always know you could be brought out if something went wrong. To run a real simulation, wouldn't the crew need to really think they were millions of miles away with no chance of rescue?

  • by blhack (921171) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:03PM (#29827011)

    People act like sticking these people in an isolated chamber for a few hundred days is a new problem, it isn't. Sailors have been doing it for centuries.

    If you want to study the effects further, give these people all a free 600 day cruise around the open sea. They're going to get horny, they're going to get angry, and they're going to get bored. That is what will happen.

    Put a server on board with some quake and a few other video games. Give them all a bunch of contraceptives.

    It will be fine. Trust me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      People act like sticking these people in an isolated chamber for a few hundred days is a new problem, it isn't. Sailors have been doing it for centuries.

      And discipline had to be enforced with physical brutality, while those doing the disciplining sought solace in alcohol. To put it mildly, neither is an acceptable course nowadays. (Not to mention that routinely being isolated for hundreds of days vanished well over a century ago with the rise of steam power.)

      Put a server on board with some

  • Irrelevant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:08PM (#29827081) Homepage

    Wouldn't the psychological effects of knowing that you're taking part in a (mostly meaningless) test negate any actual behavioral data collected?

    If I was given the opportunity to walk on Mars, I'd consent to outright torture for 6 months.

    If I was placed in isolation, and told that at the end, I'd have gobs of paperwork and medical exams to complete, my psychological perspective would be rather different. I'd get very bored very quickly.

    On the flipside, if I became severely ill in space, I'd (rightfully) panic, while I'd be more comfortable in an isolated trial, knowing that the full facilities of Moscow's health system were at my disposal, a few blocks away.

    Also don't forget the physiological effects of zero-gravity and increased radiation in space that you wouldn't experience on earth.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by decipher_saint (72686) *

      I reckon if people can't handle it in a safe, controlled, Earth bound experiment than we learn something important.

    • They should really perform this experiment in Antarctica, in the winter, somewhere near the South Pole (or at least, several hours from the nearest base). Make them eat pre-packaged food and recycled water, and breathe recycled air, for a year and a half, with only the habitat walls standing between themselves and a rapid death from hypothermia, and you'd have something that begins to approach the experience of traveling to Mars.

      If we can't keep a crew alive for the required time period in a hostile environ

  • /., you disappoint me.

  • I heard that VASIMR plasma engine cuts the trip time to 40 days. Those poor volunteers :-)

  • Vacation Days (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bloobamator (939353)

    "ESA is looking for European volunteers to take part."

    ...because only Europeans have enough vacation days to participate in a 520-day experiment.

    oh wait! how about: ...because everyone knows that Europeans already live in a bubble, so the transition should be no problem for them.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:14PM (#29827993)
    They get volunteers from America, Russia, and Poland. The Americans insist on taking 100 cases of junk food, the Russians insist on taking 100 cases of vodka, and the Poles insist on taking 100 cases of cigarettes. After 520 days, the American emerge even fatter than before. The Russians emerge slightly soused, but still in good spirits. Lastly, the poles emerge, looking shaky and sullen, and the first words out of their mouths are, "Has anybody here got a match?"
  • by whatajoke (1625715) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:40PM (#29828397)
    The last time a woman volunteered for such an experiment [msn.com], she encountered lots of sexual harrasment from the Russian crew members.

    Less than a month into her run, Lapierre suddenly encountered serious problems. She was twice forcibly French-kissed by the Russian team commander, and soon afterwards witnessed a 10-minute-long fight between two Russians that left blood spattered on the walls.
    She insisted that the controversial kisses were not merely “friendly celebrations” and that she had vigorously told the Russian to back off. She quoted him as saying, "We should try kissing, I haven't been smoking for six months. Then we can kiss after the mission and compare it. Let's do the experiment now."
    Lapierre dismissed the notion that the Russian thought his actions were normal and acceptable. "Why did he try to pull me out of sight of the camera?" she asked.
    When Lapierre's team first entered the modules, Dr. Valery Gushin, the scientific coordinator of the project, voiced attitude that in hindsight could have been seen as warnings about the problem. "Men, they have some expectations from women," he told a Canadian television team. "They want them to be more like women, not just partners. At least Russians do."
    Following the incident, Gushin blamed Lapierre. His official report, which Lapierre has seen, saud she had "ruined the mission, the atmosphere, by refusing to be kissed." She should have been taken out, he wrote, and he also insisted that the foreigners had caused the fight.

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