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Mars500 Mission Begins 235

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-think-I-saw-this-movie dept.
krou writes "The six participants in the Mars500 project have entered their sealed facility. The project, which lasts for 18 months, is designed to try and simulate a mission to Mars, completely isolated and cut off from the outside world, with a '20-minute, one-way time-delay in communications to mirror the real lag in sending messages over the vast distance between Mars and Earth.' They also have limited consumables, with everything required being loaded onboard from the start. You can follow developments via the blog, or the Twitter feed of Diego Urbina, one of the would-be cosmonauts."
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Mars500 Mission Begins

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  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:07AM (#32444126)

    Yes and knowing that you can get out whenever you want might also change how well you cope with being in there.

    I suppose that could go either way. For some people being able to get out might make it like trying to give up smoking with a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in your pocket. For others it might be a reassurance.

  • by krou (1027572) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:07AM (#32444136)
    ... the blog's in Russian. In Russia blogs translate you, etc. etc. ESA has a mission diary [esa.int] available though, written by Diego Urbina and Romain Charles.
  • by b0bby (201198) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:33AM (#32444498) Homepage

    And TFA (the BBC one) mentions that one of the possible uses for the studies they are doing would be to mitigate the effects of isolation on the elderly.

  • Elephant in the room (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wombatmobile (623057) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:34AM (#32444508)
    How are they going to handle sex?
  • by Wiarumas (919682) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:37AM (#32444542)
    Eh, it goes both ways. These people know that there is a world outside those walls and a life past those 500 days. Whereas there is a great, expansive nothingness that extends forever all around their module during the real deal. Sure, it might be a glorious voyage, but with great peril as well... not to mention the fact that it might be a high probability of being a journey to certain death. Even the strongest minds might be impacted by the survival mechanism after a breaking point is reached during that long, cramped journey... I don't think that could be replicated.
  • Re:Pure theater (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:38AM (#32444560) Journal
    If you read the link your provided, you will see that Biosphere 2 was nothing close to a scientific experiment. It was not made by NASA, it was not made by scientists.

    The questions about a trip to Mars are political. The only technical question is whether we can make it in 6 month or if we'll have an engine to do it in 2 months. The main science question is : what the hell do we need humans on Mars for ?
  • by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:39AM (#32444576) Journal

    The distance to Mars, relative to me driving down to the corner store to pick up a 6er of Sam Adams, is mindbogglingly vast. And I live in a rural enough area that it's not a short drive.

    Bad humor aside, the distance to Mars (about 55 million km, if you use the closest approach) is still vast compared to a trip to, say, the Moon (the furthest out Humans have been so far, at about 385,000 km).

    It's almost 150 times as far to Mars as it is to the Moon. That's sufficiently "vast" that we really need to make sure humans can manage the trip in a confined space without killing each other.

  • Re:Pure theater (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:45AM (#32444636)
    Yes, perhaps I should have added modifier "realistically" to my 20-30 year estimate. I have no doubt that we could be on Mars in 10 years or less if we mounted an Apollo-program-like effort today, but that would require the kind of resources that we're extremely unlike to commit. At the height of the NASA's Apollo development (1966), NASA's budget represented about 5.5% of the total federal budget. To achieve that equivalent level of support today, you would have to increase NASA's budget by over 10x. With a huge (and rising federal) debt, an already out-of-control deficit, and two unending wars still hanging around like albatrosses around the neck of the country; it's pretty unlikely you could even get a Congress to DOUBLE the NASA budget, much less balloon it from $19 billion a year to $200 billion.
  • by RivenAleem (1590553) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:50AM (#32444678)

    All male (or all female) is probably the best way to arrange these things, unless they are prepared to give up their privacy in such matters. It's okay to have segregated showers etc in a submarine these days because of the sheer size of them now. But if you are trying to budget for 3-4 man crew, then they have to be comfortable being naked in each other's presence.

    It would be a useful second round to try it with mixed genders, but for now arranging it with just the one gender give a more defined control group. This way they can analyse the group for stresses that are not caused by shyness or reproductive ... urges. If round one succeeds and round two fails, then they learn that it's okay to send groups to mars, one gender at a time.

    Men require more calories on a day to day basis, so an all female crew would require less resources than a male crew, but women are also much more social creatures, and being without contact to the wider world, would likely affect them more. (In the wild) It has been seen how males would often lead solitary lives (bull elephants, lions, bears) while a lone female (among mammals) is very rare. Women might find it a lot harder to leave everything behind them and go on a trip like this. And for this reason it would be interesting to see a similar project with women and compare the results

    It would be interesting to hear from a woman on this subject. If one ever comes here...

  • by dylan_- (1661) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @10:58AM (#32444784) Homepage

    Personally, I'd consider the distance to Mars vast, since it's an order of magnitude greater than the total distance I'm likely to travel in my lifetime.

    Not so! At its closest, Mars is about 55 millions km away whereas you travel about 150 million km each year.

  • Re:Pure theater (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nethead (1563) <joe@nethead.com> on Thursday June 03, 2010 @11:59AM (#32445716) Homepage Journal

    Humans aren't particularly adept physically and mentally to live in such confined quarters for months on end.

    Maybe they should study inmates living in segregation units in prisons.

  • Re:Pure theater (Score:3, Interesting)

    by izomiac (815208) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @01:25PM (#32447340) Homepage

    The main science question is : what the hell do we need humans on Mars for ?

    I don't think that's a scientific question. I'm sure there's scientific benefit to doing that, maybe more, probably less than making a large number of probes. Personally, I don't think the motivations are that different than people colonizing random islands and going on voyages around the world.

    "We" on Earth probably have little need for the resources on Mars right now. OTOH, it'd be a good first step into colonizing and mining the solar system. Titan apparently has more oil than the Earth. So, in 50 years, when we're starting to run out, I imagine someone will be getting rich off of that. Or we'll have switched to a new power and hydrocarbon source, but who's optimistic enough to say that with absolute certainty? Plus there are countless other potential resources.

    Since I was curious, here's some math on Titan's oil. Crude oil has an energy density of 46.3 MJ/kg. Titan's escape velocity is 2.65 Km/sec. So, it'll take more than 3.5 MJ/kg to get the oil off of Titan, which seems quite practical if it were transported in bulk (even 10% efficiency would work). You could also gain 62.7 MJ/kg if you could somehow capture the energy involved in landing it on Earth (space elevator counterweight perhaps?).

    Mars has an escape velocity of 5.0 Km/sec, so it'd take 12.5 MJ/kg to get something into space. That's an 80% reduction in energy needs if you build the necessary orbital infrastructure using Martian minerals compared to using Terran minerals. Nobody owns them yet, so there are no middle men driving up costs, and pulling rocks out of the ground will be easier in lower gravity. Environmentalists will love the fact that there's no ecosystem to destroy, and people tend to be a little better about working around aesthetically pleasing natural formations.

    Heck, the physics of mining the solar system don't seem bad at all. When technology enables it to be done in an economic manner I'd imagine it's all but inevitable for the world to move to a space based economy. Personally, I live in America, so I'd prefer if we were the ones that got rich (or richer, realistically speaking) from that investment. But if we chill out and keep probing the outer planets (pun averted), our geographic knowledge of the solar system will be spectacular, but people on Earth will suffer and die while competing for limited resources.

    Manned space exploration is also the groundwork for tourism, and I'd like to visit space sometime in my life, preferably another celestial body. Besides that, it's a lot more effective for generating interest in the sciences, so I think that's a good enough societal boon.

  • by Simonetta (207550) on Thursday June 03, 2010 @08:47PM (#32453196)

    ...and just because the money isn't there today, doesn't mean the scientists, politicians and astronauts of tomorrow aren't falling in love with the whole space thing right now,...

          The money isn't here today. And it's not going to be here tomorrow. That's my whole point. The money was pissed away. It's gone. And this means exactly that the scientists, et al. of tomorrow won't be falling in love with the whole Space thing. The whole Space thing is over. The scientists of today aren't re-falling-In-love with the three-masted wooden-sailing-ship thing of yesterday. That's over too.

          The scientists, politicians and astronauts of tomorrow are going to be falling in love with the porn images of women from the end of the 20th-century that they can see on their little cell-phones.

          ...or that the technologies they'll need to get there aren't going to be massively cheaper by then.

          The technology isn't going to get cheaper. Cheap technology depends on cheap energy. Peak Oil is ensuring that energy will get very expensive in the next twenty years. As it does, the computer_silicon_Moore's Law_telecommunications revolution hits a brick wall.
    Prepare for it. Start now. Read or bleed. Learn or burn.

    we can either waste huge swathes of money killing each other or on a space folly then I'll go with space folly every day.

        You and I don't any choice in the matter. All we can do is refuse to kill each other and to protest space folly at every opportunity. And keep our money out of the hands of the madmen would waste it on murder and Space fantasies.

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