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Mars Space Science

Volunteers Wanted For Simulated 520-Day Mars Trip 356

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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  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • Hmm, poor timing? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:36PM (#29826641)

    Upon exiting the simulated spacecraft:

    "Hi! Thanks for wasting 18 months of your life sitting with five people with bad body odour playing Canasta until your eyes bled.

    Btw, we decided to use VASIMR and we'll get there in 40 days!

    Cheers, and thanks for the help. Btw, your dad died."

  • 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:Volunteers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:46PM (#29826801)

    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 tested here is the selection process for putting together a team that can work together for 18 months. And to be blunt, I don't understand the psychology of people who view this as equivalent to a prison sentence. Not everyone needs extensive social contact. There are plenty of examples of small groups making do in an isolated environment for years at a time.

  • 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:This is not new (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:51PM (#29826867) Journal

    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:Submarine crews (Score:2, Insightful)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:53PM (#29826907)

    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 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: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.

  • Vacation Days (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bloobamator ( 939353 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:41PM (#29827523)

    "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.

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

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> 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...

  • Re:why 520 days?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aes123 ( 1532617 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:27PM (#29828211)
    Yeah! They were talking about a simulated one-way trip. At the end of the experiment, all of the volunteers will be suffocated or killed in a fire.
  • 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.

  • 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 DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @07:57PM (#29830391) Homepage

    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 quake and a few other video games. Give them all a bunch of contraceptives.
    It will be fine. Trust me.

    Trust you? Ok, let's put 'em on the table shipmate. I've got four SSBN deterrent patrols - averaging 90 days each.

    My experience is it is very hard to assemble a crew, can be hard to maintain discipline, difficult to maintain motivation, etc... etc... across such a time period. Personal friction rises over time, as does depression at being isolated,

    What's your experience that lets you speak with authority?

  • by mbessey ( 304651 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @08:53PM (#29830809) Homepage Journal

    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 environment on Earth, it's just stupid to think we're ready to plan to go to Mars.

  • by Jedi Alec ( 258881 ) on Thursday October 22, 2009 @08:20AM (#29833853)

    The best way to express it would be six people, none of whom are sexually attracted to any one of the others, or three very stable couples, or some other dynamic that does not allow the buildup of sexual tension.

    Throw in 520 days in an isolated environment, and none of the above starting parameters has a glimmer of a chance of making it through.

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10