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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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  • Zero G (Score:2, Informative)

    How did they simulate zero gravity and its adverse effects on the human body??

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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.
    • OK, replying to myself. The first article shows a pic of the crew floating around on April 1st, but the second articke states "minus the weightlessness."

      Oh, my brain will explode now!!!

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday November 04, 2011 @10:06AM (#37947128)

      How did they simulate zero gravity and its adverse effects on the human body??

      Mir and ISS have done that. This seems to be a psychological test regarding isolation. However without the extreme risk of actual interplanetary spaceflight the psychological data might be limited. The stress of such a risk has to have an effect.

      Which make me wonder if candidates for a Mars mission should be "old school" astronauts, those with experience as test pilots and who probably flew combat missions as well, or who did night carrier landing (*), etc.

      (*) Maybe its a myth but I once heard that during the Vietnam war the US Navy wired up some pilots to record vital signs related to stress. Pilots were more stressed during night carrier landings than on combat missions near/over Hanoi (a very hazardous area for these pilots).

      • I don't think anyone stayed in a space station for 520 days though.

        As bad as health degredation from being in space a short period of time is- wonder if they'll all come back from Mars blind, bent bones, muscles atrophied and carrying the mutant virus from "Species II"

      • Which make me wonder if candidates for a Mars mission should be "old school" astronauts, those with experience as test pilots and who probably flew combat missions as well, or who did night carrier landing, etc.

        None of those professions have any experience with long term isolation and any resulting stress. Their coping mechanisms are based around dealing with missions at most a few hours long the effects and after effects of adrenaline for brief periods. On top of that, a Mars mission includes very little

        • So why should astronauts be pilots at all?

          I could have phrased things better. I didn't really mean to suggest they should necessarily all be test pilots, that was more of a reference to what old school astronauts were. I think they should all have some sort of experience in extremely high risk activities where things go wrong and someone has to deal with it really really quickly. Preferably having actually experienced such situations. I think having experienced such situations and having dealt with them is what is the more important characteristic

          • Disclaimer: I am a former SSBN crewman, a missile fire control technician to be exact.

            I could have phrased things better. I didn't really mean to suggest they should necessarily all be test pilots, that was more of a reference to what old school astronauts were. I think they should all have some sort of experience in extremely high risk activities where things go wrong and someone has to deal with it really really quickly.

            But that's the thing - pilots aren't the only people to have those reflexes a

      • (*) Maybe its a myth but I once heard that during the Vietnam war the US Navy wired up some pilots to record vital signs related to stress. Pilots were more stressed during night carrier landings than on combat missions near/over Hanoi (a very hazardous area for these pilots).

        Makes sense. It's easier to dodge AA fire or a missile than to fix a bad carrier approach.

    • They didn't simulate zero-g. A zero-gravity environment results in an average 1% loss of Bone Mineral Density per month (PDF) [nasa.gov] and muscle atrophy; however, these detrimental effects on the body might be countered by putting astronauts in a centrifuge [wired.com] for some time each day. We have seen plenty of astronauts experience extended periods of time in zero-g and in isolation though. The record for the longest space flight is held by Valeri Polyakov, who spent 437 days traveling 300,765,000 km orbiting the Earth [wikipedia.org] on
    • How did they simulate zero gravity and its adverse effects on the human body??

      Why would you need to? On a long duration journey such as this you would design the craft to spin in order to simulate gravity. You would start off at a rotation rate that would give an Earth normal gravity. Then, over the course of the trip to Mars, you would reduce the spin rate, so that when the craft arrived at Mars, the crew would be acclimatized to Mars normal gravity. During the return trip, you would start off at a spin rate that emulates the gravity of Mars, and increase the spin rate so that w

  • 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.
    • Well, these specific astronauts. I wonder if they'd all be prepared to do the real thing now, or if once was enough?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is not the first time they made this experiment. The first two times it failed.

    • 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.

      • by vadim_t (324782)

        That risk existed on every space shuttle flight. Doesn't seem to have been a problem.

        • by s_p_oneil (795792)

          How many space shuttle flights have lasted over 500 days? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure the total is 0. It is very possible for stress to build up over time, for fears to increase over time. In the case of the Mars trip, I would think the farther you got from Earth (and any chance of help being sent to you), the more it would weigh upon your mind.

      • As in, how to invoke panic in the team? Like how many times if any did they suffer electrical/comm/breather outages? And do it unscheduled?

        With 520+ days I can assume you could totally not have any contact with them for three weeks or more on purpose to see the effects. Cruel perhaps, but we don't have a great understanding of how people react. This looks a like a nice first step.

        • by s_p_oneil (795792)

          But the participants still know it's a simulation with help on the other side of the door if something potentially dangerous occurs.

      • Put the trailer in Detroit?
      • by Jeng (926980)

        Perhaps if they had to deal with LSD randomly being put in their food they might be able to simulate the potential fear that they might not make it back.

        Actually think they should have drugged one person every now and then to simulate someone loosing it.

      • by argStyopa (232550)

        I'm not sure that wouldn't reasonably be countered by the adrenaline/motivation of the significance of the mission. First humans on another planet? Does it get bigger than that ever?

        In fact, I'd almost think that the long term effects of this motivation/stress might be even greater than the fear-factor.

      • Through history, there were a LOT of voyages where the potential not to make it back was strong. We already know humans can handle that kind of thing.

        What has not been done as much before is a very small group of people confined to a small space for a long time. Even on old sailing ships you could look at the sea. Submarines are not out at sea that long.

        I personally would jump at a chance to go even if the chance of making it back was 0%. I'm sure there are many others like this...

        • I personally would jump at a chance to go even if the chance of making it back was 0%. I'm sure there are many others like this...

          There probably are... ... but it is easier to think you'd be fine going when there is no chance- then when there is a chance.

          I'm sure a lot of people would want to go- but if they were given the chance and had to wait a while before going- it would sink in with every pleasurable even on earth "I may never get to do this again".

          I suspect a lot of people willing to go on such a mission would develop cold feet long before training for the mission would conclude if there were no chance of getting back.

          - but sti

        • by s_p_oneil (795792)

          IMO the most important study is the combination of the two.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        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.

        A friend spent three years working in Antarctica. Some of the people he worked with didn't make it back after they got lost in a snow storm and were never seen again. None of them started chopping people up with an axe.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Stargoat (658863) *

      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 ea

      • These ships sometimes had hundreds of people

        might possibly be the reason why

         

        the men did not go bat shit insane.

        When you get to hundreds of people, you now have a small community. Living in 'isolation' with 500 people for 3 years is night and day compared to the psychological experience of living in isolation with 5.

      • by DerekLyons (302214) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .retawriaf.> on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:20AM (#37947972) Homepage

        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.

        I've actually lived in circumstances somewhat resembling those of this simulation - as a SSBN crewman. And let me assure you, people do indeed go bat shit insane under those conditions. The ships you so admire kept their crews under control with a combination of brutal discipline and extremely heavy physical work, something unlikely to be tried today, singly or in tandem.

        • What extremely heavy physical work can you do regularly on a sub? Did they make you haul heavy stuff from one end to the other and back, or put you on an exercise machine with orders to do 500 reps or what?

      • by Bucc5062 (856482) <<bucc5062> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:29AM (#37948122)

        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.

        That is just wrong. Those ships were not riding the seas for three years with no contact with land. They had to stop and times to provision, unload cargo, perform repairs that would require calm waters and materials from land. So perhaps they were away from"home" for three years, but natives in the south pacific may from time to time had blue eyed babies. There was also rampant "buggery", discipline through fear and violence and death was treated a part of the risk, not the exception. Out of a hundred crew members, if you lose one or two on a cruise you just re-hire in port or just make do. Lose a crew on a 5/6 man space mission has way more impact on every aspect of the mission.

        Someone else mentioned subs that go on patrol for 5-6 months as a closer example to this experiment. In that I slightly agree, but 5-6 months is not 520 days. Subs are equipped with some of the best food products for meals, vast media libraries, and a military structure that (on the surface) sets a standard of behavior. No navy has tried to run a sub for 2 years non stop underwater. Now that may could close to an ideal on earth experiment.

        It would be easy to say "just send em up and see what happens", but when you are talking Billions of dollars invested with no direct return? I can understand a step wise approach. Whaling ships were a lot cheaper to build (thus lose) then a Mars spacecraft.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        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.

        Actually, that's less likely to happen. Most likely is that one of them would go batshit insane and the mission gets aborted.

        The primary reason is humans are social creatures, and interactions with others are necessary for survival (it usually happens often enough for most people that no on

    • I have unwittingly been involved in a speeded up version of this experiment when travelling south to visit the in-laws at Christmas. 4 days is the equivalent of a year down there. I would have happily greased myself by throwing myself out of an airlock had I been in space.
    • by idji (984038)
      18th century sailing to south pacific and back was essentially no different and they were gone 7 years or more.
    • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      Humans aren't little psychological weaklings. We've known this pretty well for a long time. In the 1500s sailors set out in small groups in difficult conditions (in many ways more difficult and cramped then a mission to Mars would be) for years at a time with zero communication with home. In contrast people on a Mars mission will have a higher chance of return and will be in constant communication with their friends and loved ones (aside from a few minutes of delay due to the speed of light) which makes th
    • But where is the 'And how is my newborn test tube offspring doing?' when they came back?

  • cosplay (Score:5, Funny)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Friday November 04, 2011 @09:53AM (#37946990) Homepage

    They so should have greeted the emerging "astronauts" wearing gorilla, chimp, and orangutan masks.

  • >> they were locked into a cluster of hermetically sealed habitat modules... ...lined with newspaper, and full of wood shavings and exercise wheels.

  • by tverbeek (457094) on Friday November 04, 2011 @10:03AM (#37947100) Homepage

    Unfortunately there's one big flaw in this experiment. The crew consisted of "three Russians, one Chinese and two [other] Europeans", which only demonstrates that Eurasians are capable of living together in that limited space for that period of time. We still don't know if an American could get along with them for that long. :)

  • Some guy is wandering around an apparently deserted town, trying to figure out why he doesn't remember who he is. Then it turns out he's in the airforce, and just hallucinating. That was a pretty good one.
  • There are rather a few people who have been locked up for years longer and in worse conditions. They didn't know if any given day, was their last day either. Evidence on how people suffer when well outside an expected comfort zone must be well known. Ask a bomb disposal expert how they cope with knowing there is a higher than average chance of being killed at work. I bet polar scientists know a thing or two about remote working conditions and being cut off too.
    But if you want a great example of how bat shi
  • Robots are getting so good, that the need for manned exploration of places like Mars is past it's prime. We could be drilling for water on Europa and mapping Io and many more mission if we saved on manned exploration of Mars. We could have a nuclear powered glider swooping around Mars at low altitude gathering data. The need for humans in places that are dangerous to them is moot. Robots can do this for less.

  • by daveewart (66895) on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:43AM (#37948326)

    I think this is all a hoax. I think they really went to Mars.

  • Everyone mentions zero-g given human psychological nature I think a bigger issue is food. They clearly had fresh greens and 6 massive freezers and as much again in another room if you watched the video. They had bread, etc. They wouldn't have ANY of this in space.

    Food has a major impact on our psyche and mental state and I'm not just talking about the nutritional value. They should have been required to drink packet sludge through tubes.

  • Was that deliberate or did the girls not make the cut?
  • Fake Mars mission and no one mentions Capricorn One???
    I'm not sayin.. I'm just sayin...

  • "Where Is Everybody?"

    The writers thought a solo person would go crazy in 484 hours, 36 minutes.

  • They should turn this into a "Mission to Mars" ride at Disneyland.

    Although the wait in line might take quite a long time.

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