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Mars Space Science

Russian Simulated Mars Mission Close To 'Landing' 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-wait-for-the-simulated-martian-attack dept.
Dthief writes with this quote from an Associated Press report: "After 233 days in a locked steel capsule, six researchers on a 520-day mock flight to Mars are all feeling strong and ready to 'land' on the Red Planet, the mission director said Friday. The all-male crew of three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman and an Italian-Colombian has been inside windowless capsules at a Moscow research center since June. Their mission aims to help real space crews in the future cope with the confinement and stress of interplanetary travel. The researchers communicate with the outside world via emails and video messages — occasionally delayed to give them the feel of being farther than a few yards away from mission control. The crew members eat canned food similar to that eaten on the International Space Station and shower only once a week. None of the men has considered abandoning the mission, although they are free to walk out at any time, mission director and former cosmonaut Boris Morukov told reporters on Friday."
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Russian Simulated Mars Mission Close To 'Landing'

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  • by yeshuawatso (1774190) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:31AM (#34965068) Journal

    Why does the line "three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman and an Italian-Colombian" sound like a bad and racist "walk in a bar" joke?

    • by euyis (1521257) <euyis@nospAm.infinity-game.com> on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:51AM (#34965208)
      Three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman and an Italian-Colombian walk into a Mars capsule and can't get out.
    • by msauve (701917)
      More like a Firesign Theater joke.

      "MOSCOW (AP) — After 233 days in a locked steel capsule..." - the article.

      NENO: Dig this! I'm calling you from inside a steel box at this University of Conceptual Psychic Surprise in Moscow...Hey, can you see me? What do I look like?
      Yeah- black, square- kind of regular
      NENO: (happily) That's the steel box! Inside I'm tan and handsome.
      - Firesign Theater
    • by Wingsy (761354)
      Not often, but sometimes the humor here on /. makes me smile. This one made me bust out laughing. thx
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman were depressurizing in a bar.

      "They should've agreed to my offer", said the Italian-Colombian in a low voice.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Why does the line "three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman and an Italian-Colombian" sound like a bad and racist "walk in a bar" joke?

      Of course it's not complete until there's a chicken or monkey involved.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Why does the line "three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman and an Italian-Colombian" sound like a bad and racist "walk in a bar" joke?

      I'll give it a try:

      A Russian, Chinaman, Frenchman, and an Italian flew into space together in a small capsule. The Russian looked out the windows and proclaimed, "Why I can see Moscow from up here!"

      "Oh yeah?" said the Frenchman, "I can see the Eiffel Tower! It's more prominent than Moscow."

      "Oh yeah?" said the Chinaman, "I can see the Great Wall from here. It's even more prominent than both Moscow and the Eiffel Tower".

      Then all 3 turned toward the Italian, awaiting a statement. A little miffed over the silly

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Doug Neal (195160)

      OK, here goes.

      Three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman and an Italian-Colombian walk into a bar. They order some drinks, and proceed to act in manners stereotypical of their respective countries of origin.
      The barman finds their antics highly amusing. They leave several hours later, fairly intoxicated but quite happy.

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      I went to the pub, and there was an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman, a Rabbi, an Imam and a Priest, two blind lesbians, three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman, an Italian-Columbian, a Polish maths professor and two students, and a taxi driver from Liverpool,

      I didn't go in, it was bloody *rammed* in there, you'd never get served.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:32AM (#34965072)

    I call bullshit on this one.

  • by garcia (6573) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:36AM (#34965096)

    I think knowing you can walk out at any time makes the reality of this experiment far less stressful on those inside the test capsule than if they were actually traveling through space and had no opportunity to leave.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:42AM (#34965144)

      I think knowing you can walk out and not die at any time makes the reality of this experiment far less stressful on those inside the test capsule than if they were actually traveling through space and had no opportunity to leave.

      FTFY

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        It's in Moscow. I'm pretty sure they know that they might die at any time should they wander outside of their test capsule.

        I kid! Please don't hit me.

    • Does the test capsule simulate weightless travel? I would assume that if the capsule is subject to the 9.81 m/s2 acceleration, that reminds us Americans that we're fat, the experiment is just a small room with a bunch of smelly men boarding together. How is this experiment any different than a college dorm?

      I haven't read this or the other articles about the experiment beyond the headlines, so my ignorance is legitimate. Any replies, please give a subjective response riddled with your offtopic emotions of an

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Russians are doing long-term microgravity (and generally space travel) human experiments for the last 3 decades, it would be my guess they don't see this Mars500 project as an all-encompassing one.

      • by Ash Vince (602485) *

        Does the test capsule simulate weightless travel?

        It doesn't need to. You can very easily simulate gravity in deep space by a number of methods:

        1) You accelerate half the way there at 9.81 m/s, then when you get halfway you spin the capsule 180 degrees and decelerate at the same rate for second half. The end result is you only have a brief preiod of weightlessness in the middle and at both ends. For the vast majority of the journey you have normal gravity. This does take alot of fuel to provide that constant acceleration and decelleration but it will take

        • by sznupi (719324)

          AC covered 1)...

          2) We won't have mass budget for that, not in "spin the craft and put the living quarters around the outside" way (radius must be large, otherwise Coriolis force and "gravity" changing with height is likely to result in massive nausea). Separating the craft into two tethered sections, and spinning them just en route, might be perhaps feasible (even if still adding mass of course). Perhaps.

    • by exploder (196936)

      Good point. Reminds me of those assholes who were playing at being waterboarded to show how it's "not that bad".

    • by vadim_t (324782) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:54AM (#34965236) Homepage

      I think it's the reverse, really.

      Since they can walk out at any time, aborting is easy, and the mission can fail due to quite minor disagreements. Nobody needs to put up with anything, they just can go "screw it" and leave. That it's been working so far seems to mean it's working amazingly well.

      On the other hand, if you're in space, and don't like it, what are you going to do? Throw a gigantic tantrum and beat people up? Things like that will bite you in the ass sooner or later, and are likely to result in your death. I think one's self-preservation instinct should provide some motivation.

      Maybe somebody who's been in the military or similar positions can comment: What's it like to be in a life and death situation with a team member you really hate? Do people put aside the personal conflicts until the task gets done?

      • by finity (535067)
        I agree with you vadim. If I was in this situation, for at least the first two weeks the idea that I could just quit and go back to everyday life at anytime would be at the top of my mind. There are few consequences to quitting in this situation, compared to those in a real mission. In a real mission you're completely committed both physically and mentally, in a fake mission it's a mental game.
      • by theblondebrunette (1315661) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @11:49AM (#34965560)
        I do not agree. First, working in a team increases human pain threshold twice [guardian.co.uk].
        Second, when you're a given a "stop" button, you can endure more pain and actually finish the given exercise. I cannot find the study that showed this, but can give you a short description - a control group of people were given electric shock (or other form of pain) until a certain threshold. Another group of people were going through the same exercise, but were given a button that could make the pain stop right away.
        The group that did not have the button, gave up much earlier than the group that had that button. The latter group actually went through the end of the exercise.

        So, if you're working in a group (first study above) and you're given a way out, I'd say it's much easier to endure the trip.
        Thus I disagree with the parent post.

        As for this study, I really think the test subjects should've been told they wouldn't be able to make it out, even if they wanted to..
        This, however, could very well be the next test.
        • by vadim_t (324782)

          I'm not really convinced.

          In both cases of the second study there's a way to stop, since even without the button giving up was a possibility. I'm not sure what the button changes. Perhaps it's that without the button, they think they'll have a hard time getting the test stopped early, and don't want to risk waiting until it gets unbearable before trying to talk their way out of it.

          But in space, there's no stop button and no way out. No amount of arguing, threatening, beating people up, promising vast riches

        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          So, when we really send people to Mars, we need to make them believe it is an earth side test :D

      • by dargaud (518470) <[ten.duagradg] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Saturday January 22, 2011 @12:13PM (#34965698) Homepage
        You are right on the money. I've spent a year in Antarctica twice for a winterover [gdargaud.net], meaning 9 months when you have no way out, 13 people sitting in a building with -80C temperatures outside. You HAVE to cope with minor issues. And indeed the only fight broke out on the day before the arrival of the first airplane of the summer. Also you have the feeling of doing something important [research] while there, which is not something you'd get from sitting in a tuna can with nothing to do for 500 days... I'm amazed they've made it so far.
        • Them sitting in a can for 500 days is itself providing important data for research though.

          I wonder if they get a bonus for making it all the way through. That would also skew the results.

      • Actually, there is experimental evidence that supports the OP's claim that, having a way out makes the "trip" less stressful. Volunteers have been subjected to a series of gradually increasing electrical shocks. One group could stop the experiment at any time with a switch they could activate themselves, the other could not. The former resisted MUCH higher shocks than the latter (the one "without a way out").

      • by TheLink (130905)

        Maybe somebody who's been in the military or similar positions can comment: What's it like to be in a life and death situation with a team member you really hate?

        The best people to ask would probably be the crew of nuclear submarines. They'd probably be most suitable psychologically for such stuff.

        NASA seem to prefer pilots though.

        • by sznupi (719324)

          It's not like NASA (or Roscosmos) couldn't possibly get access to such crews...

      • Maybe somebody who's been in the military or similar positions can comment: What's it like to be in a life and death situation with a team member you really hate? Do people put aside the personal conflicts until the task gets done?

        It's not much different than being in a life-or-death situation with someone you really like. Seriously, you learn to put the team and the mission ahead of yourself.

      • by rgviza (1303161)

        true that

        You'd tend to treat your fellow travelers a little better if your lives depended on it. This tendency would be amplified if it was the real thing and you couldn't just quit. You'd tend to let the little things go a little easier.

    • I think knowing you can walk out at any time makes the reality of this experiment far less stressful on those inside the test capsule than if they were actually traveling through space and had no opportunity to leave.

      Having done something like this (mine was simulating a submarine underway while pierside), no it doesn't.

    • .. can you really just walk away?
      Or will they chase you through the desert, hunting you down with black helicopters...
  • by PJ6 (1151747) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:43AM (#34965152)

    None of the men has considered abandoning the mission, although they are free to walk out at any time, mission director and former cosmonaut Boris Morukov told reporters on Friday.

    If they wanted more realism (and since it's Russia), they should have told the crew that death in space would be "simulated" if any tried to leave.

  • But we will shoot you...
  • Locked Capsule:Mars Mission::Masturbation:Sex
  • by Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:49AM (#34965190)

    Are they assuming a real trip to Mars will include artificial gravity the whole way? Sitting in a can for nearly a year is tough (made tougher by the one-shower-per-week Frenchman sitting next to you), but doing the same without the benefit of gravity would be a whole other ballgame.

    Did they at least simulate the unblinking red eye and monotone voice of their mission computer?

    • by haruchai (17472)

      Will there be artificial gravity on a real trip? I would hope so as the loss of bone mass would be horrendous. Never mind osteoporosis, these erstwhile astronauts would be amoebas in spacesuits by the time they got to the Red Planet.

    • by js3 (319268)

      one step at a time.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Make me rather ashamed. The cold war is over Johnny, try to cheer up!

  • by Semptimilius (917640) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @10:59AM (#34965260)

    From what I've read, they're looking at monitoring mental and physical health of a crew simulating a mission to Mars. The fundamental psychology is different, as pointed out by others, as they can leave at any time. Confinement and isolation are not properly simulated at the fundamental level. The physical side of the test is also not simulated properly, as they are under the influence of Earth's gravity and this has effects on the health of the crew.
     
    Perhaps a first step. A better test would be one at the ISS.

    • by sznupi (719324) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @12:19PM (#34965740) Homepage

      What I see being pointed out by others, is false belief that people doing this research are morons...

      While they are, in fact, closely associated with a space agency most experienced, by far, in long duration orbital stays. Being in a prime position to determine which effects don't depend much on microgravity (etc.), so can as well be tested in the discussed test.

    • As the poster above says, why do you (and many other Slashdot posters) believe the experimenters are morons?

      What's they're doing is how science and research is done - when done properly. You start out with basic, simple, experiments and use the results to design the next experiment.

  • by paiute (550198) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @11:05AM (#34965302)

    Yeah, it's a trip to Mars - minus the lack of gravity, minus the cosmic radiation, minus the occasional pebble whizzing by at thousands of miles per hour, minus the constant knowledge that a few millimeters of metal alloy separates you from pretty much instant death at all times.

    It's the take home test of space travel.

    • more of a political stunt, as it has always been the case with these "space missions".
      • by sznupi (719324)

        Why [wikipedia.org] would [wikipedia.org] they [wikipedia.org] need [wikipedia.org] such [wikipedia.org] stunt [wikipedia.org]? (with the second to last link - keep in mind those are person-days / Soyuz carried 2 or 3)

        Maybe... just maybe... it's part of their ongoing research, with the focus on those aspects which were established by them already as largely independent of actual space travel effects, etc.

        • Russian leaders (Putin..) to take credit for landing man on Mars?

          That is one huge political motivation me thinks.
          • by sznupi (719324)
            Putin will be probably dead by then; ahain, he / them don't need such "stunts", Russia has plenty impressive real space program as is.
      • by MattskEE (925706)

        more of a political stunt, as it has always been the case with these "space missions".

        Funding agencies are risk-averse. It may seem like a waste of time and money to conduct such a test, but now when the Russian space agency asks for money for a Mars mission from their government, they can point to this study as addressing one of the risk factors of this mission.

        The government gave them the money to perform this study because the study itself is low-risk and will give them a much better idea how a large 6-

    • by MattskEE (925706) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @02:04PM (#34966550)

      Yeah, it's a trip to Mars - minus the lack of gravity, minus the cosmic radiation, minus the occasional pebble whizzing by at thousands of miles per hour, minus the constant knowledge that a few millimeters of metal alloy separates you from pretty much instant death at all times.

      Surprisingly enough death isn't actually very quick in the vacuum of space (ref [damninteresting.com]). You would maintain consciousness for about 15 seconds and be able to take actions which may save your life, and even after unconsciousness you would most likely survive without significant injury if returned to an atmospheric environment within about 90 seconds.

  • So many questions... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gklinger (571901) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @11:07AM (#34965312)

    If they are free to walk out at any time, why is the capsule locked? (No, seriously.) The other thing that jumps out at me is the duration of the trips but the relatively short amount of time (two days) spent on 'Mars'. Surely a mission to Mars would include more time on the planet? The time spent on the planet would be more intellectually stimulating than the spaceflight (one presumes) and might offer relief/reward from the journey to Mars and better prepare the crew psychologically for the return mission. I wonder why that wasn't factored in. The difficulty of simulating the on-planet experience perhaps?

    Bonus question: Would an actual mission to Mars pay astronauts more than $70,000 per year?

    • by horza (87255)

      If they are free to walk out at any time, why is the capsule locked? (No, seriously.)

      They lock the capsule because in space the capsule would be locked. They are free to walk out at any time because they can ask to leave any time and the capsule will be opened to let them out.

      Surely a mission to Mars would include more time on the planet? The time spent on the planet would be more intellectually stimulating than the spaceflight (one presumes) and might offer relief/reward from the journey to Mars and better

      • by Cwix (1671282)

        Bonus question: Would an actual mission to Mars pay astronauts more than $70,000 per year?

        If top brass know it's actually a one way mission, they pretty much have a free hand to offer 10x that salary...

        That only helps if newegg will ship to mars.

      • by mrfrostee (30198)

        There might be a problem when they arrive which means they have to leave almost immediately...

        The 26 month phasing of the Earth/Mars orbits pretty much rules out leaving immediately.

        • by sznupi (719324)

          Departure stage and its resources most likely won't be on the surface.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Everybody's bitching because this isn't an exactly perfect simulation (gravity, you-can-leave-at-any-time, etc) but give them some credit: at least they're doing something. If you're a fellow American, you have no grounds for complaining.
    • If you're a fellow American, you have no grounds for complaining.

      We all are Slashdotters here, you insensitive clod.

      And as the legend goes, we are the only species in the Universe which invented ear plugs before wheels because of noisy complaining babies.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        No we invented ear plugs after marriage.

        The wheel got delayed because the man refused to listen to his wife on which shape was best for a wheel.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @11:15AM (#34965362)

    We've had that experiment a while ago. A bunch of unemployed freaks locked together into a can for a year, televised daily.

    They called it Big Brother.

  • by GodWasAnAlien (206300) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @11:26AM (#34965428)

    Do they use simulated subspace communication the other times?

    Are there other parts of the "simulation" that are modified for convenience? Can they have pizza delivered?

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Not much point in adding a delay to already non real time (usually) communication methods...

  • they are free to walk out at any time

    That one factor is why this test is useless. It would be like researching how long a human can hold his breath but he is "free to breath at any time".

    • by Jamu (852752)
      To be fair, they'd be free to walk (or float) out at any time on a real mission to Mars. They might be more disinclined to do it on a real mission though...
  • When they finally open the capsule, and find they're still on earth.

  • although they are free to walk out at any time

    That kind of makes everything different, doesn't it.

  • It's very interesting, IMHO, to follow @diegou, the italian-colombian guy on twitter, and I recommend it for everyone interested in space travel.
  • What would be funny is if they really were sent to Mars but only THOUGHT it was an experiment, but I would imagine the lack of gravity and the unfiltered sun blasting in the windows would be a dead giveaway.
  • No, it's not the airlock, it's the sound of the American space program sucking. We should be putting all our space research efforts on a real manned mission to Mars or at least returning to the Moon. Instead we've built a space station which few people give a crap about. We've mothballed our shuttles without a replacement. And we've killed off other manned vehicle programs and slashed the budgets all so that we can have an outreach program to make Muslims feel better about their contributions to science

  • I don't understand why the messages were 'occasionally delayed' - why not always delayed, to reinforce the experience? Seems like a relatively trivial way to make them really feel like they're out there.

  • As a practical joke, they should relocate the capsule to some desert that resembles Mars, put a fake Mars rover nearby, open the hatch of the capsule, and watch the men stumble out going "WTF?"

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