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Mars News Technology

Simulated Mars Mission 'Returns' After 520 Days 201

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-guys-may-want-to-stay-a-bit-longer dept.
On June 3, 2010, a team of six volunteers began the Mars500 experiment: they were locked into a cluster of hermetically sealed habitat modules for the duration of a simulated mission to Mars lasting 520 days. "During the ‘flight,' the crew performed more than 100 experiments, all linked to the problems of long-duration missions in deep space. To add to their isolation, communications with mission control were artificially delayed to mimic the natural delays over the great distances on a real Mars flight." The simulated mission has now come to an end. The crew managed to stay healthy and sane, and they've emerged from isolation to be reunited with their families. The ESA's Mars500 page has further details on the experiment, and they've posted a video summarizing the 'trip.'
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Simulated Mars Mission 'Returns' After 520 Days

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  • Re:Zero G (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04, 2011 @09:44AM (#37946874)
    I'm assuming the study was more about human behaviour rather than things like that, and to answer your question, obviously they didn't simulate it.
  • by Covalent (1001277) on Friday November 04, 2011 @09:47AM (#37946918)
    ...but this is an important experiment to perform. Obviously they can't easily simulate the zero-g, radiation exposure, etc. of a long space mission, but the psychological question of "can you lock 5 people in a single-wide trailer for 2 years and expect them to not go completely bat shit insane?" is a valid one.

    520 days is definitely enough to complete a round-trip Mars mission. This experiment suggests that you can successfully go "there and back again" without making your astronauts lose their mind.
  • by s_p_oneil (795792) on Friday November 04, 2011 @09:57AM (#37947024) Homepage

    While I agree, there's one important psychological factor this study left out, and that's the potential fear that you may not make it back. I don't know how they'd be able to successfully simulate that.

  • Re:sorry, but no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04, 2011 @10:06AM (#37947126)

    You have to start somewhere, this is still a valuable data point. Integrated "test" is hard to do without actually doing the real thing so... Just my $0.05

  • Re:Zero G (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheCRAIGGERS (909877) on Friday November 04, 2011 @10:18AM (#37947264)

    In that I mean that the participants still know that they are on earth, so why do I need to wait 6 minutes (guessing at a time delta here...) to get a response from 'earth' when I know that it shouldn't take that long.

    Because it's part of the experiment, and they know it. Usually, factors like that are minimized in studies, but there isn't much you can do in this case.

    Still, I agree that this isn't a very good test. One of the biggest factors on our sanity wasn't part of this test: fear. Even in low orbit, you know that a relatively thin layer of metal is all that protects you from death. If you have a major health issue, there are no ambulances to take you to the ER. Death literally surrounds you every moment you're out there, and living with that for nearly two years would likely take its toll.

    In this study, you know you're monitored. If you lose containment, you're safe. If you have a heart attack, they will open the door and come get you. If your wife has a stroke, they'll let you out. Etc. I'd imagine that without knocking a random passerby on the head and waking them up on a fake spacecraft, it is extremely difficult to recreate the feeling of being out there.

  • Re:sorry, but no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Friday November 04, 2011 @10:24AM (#37947324) Homepage

    No, this really is how you "begin to measure the mental strain". First you test to see whether it's possible for them to survive a simulation of just the isolation and confinement, but without the weightlessness and danger. If-and-only-if that test goes well, you proceed to the next step (whatever that might be).

  • Re:Newlywed? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pavon (30274) on Friday November 04, 2011 @10:28AM (#37947382)

    Yeah, I don't get that either. When I was single I would've signed up for a one-way trip to Mars, or a year-long stay in Antartica, or whatever in a heartbeat. Now, I wouldn't even take a job with lots of travel unless she is okay with it. Why create strong emotional bonds with someone only to turn around and not see them for years?

    But in a similarly thousands of military men keep popping out kids during "war time" knowing they will likely be redeployed shortly and won't see them for years, if ever. Why would you do that? Why would you put that kind of burden on your wife? Why intentionally create children if you aren't going be there to support them and enjoy them. I just don't get it.

  • by Stargoat (658863) * <stargoat@gmail.com> on Friday November 04, 2011 @10:33AM (#37947444) Journal

    Nonsense. It was not valid and even a waste of money.

    British sailing Man-of-Wars would be out of contact with land for months at a time. American Whalers reported being at sea for three years in pursuit of the South Sea sperm whales. Those men did perfectly fine. These ships sometimes had hundreds of people and the men did not go bat shit insane.

    No, there is far too much molly-coddling and concern for people's feelings in these matters. Get a small group of professional men together and Mars will be easily visited. If we as humans put our minds to it - colonized.

  • Re:sorry, but no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Unkyjar (1148699) on Friday November 04, 2011 @12:29PM (#37948942)

    And the Stanford prison experiment was nothing like actual prison, but somehow people were still psychologically effected in the same way.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment [wikipedia.org]

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