Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Mars 500

I signed up to spend 90 days in bed for "space flight simulation." A lot of folks called me crazy. I never actually argued with that, so I figure I still have wiggle room to point out people who are even crazier :)

But hey, we're all in this together, just trying to get to Mars, right? The European and Russian space agencies are collaborating on mock mars missions, and I posted a detailed article about these projects at HULIQ Science.

Mars 500

The Mars 500 Crew during survival training.

The first 105-day simulation starts this month. The second, scheduled for later this year, will isolate crew members for 520 days (possibly up to 600, which is still under consideration by Roskosmos) -- the time needed to travel to Mars, stay for a month, and travel back to Earth.

Though still concerned with health and human factors above all, these studies will focus less on microgravity and more on actual survival -- including psychological effects of isolation and self-sufficiency aboard a spacecraft on a long mission.

Moscow's official Mars 500 website has some interesting descriptions, and it's a great step forward for both agencies in confronting the time, equipment and support needed to reach Mars, as well as the dynamics of human interaction under long-term isolation. In addition, the official site of the Russian Control Centre of Space Flights has this marvelous model:

Mars Modules

Module 1: The Mars Lander (6.3m × 6.17m) will be used during the 30-day “Mars orbiting” phase. It has three bunks, two workstations, a data collection system, video communications, ventilation, water supply and fire alarm systems.

Module 2: The Technical Module (3.2m × 11.9m) will house equipment for medical examinations and telemedical, laboratory and diagnostic investigations. All experiments will be conducted here.

Module 3: The Living Quarters (3.6m × 20m) has a kitchen, living room, and main control room. Six individual crew compartments (2.8m²) will have a bed, a desk, chair and small shelves.

Module 4: The Storage Module (3.9m × 24m) features food refrigeration, clothing and crockery cupboards, sauna & gym, plus a “regenerative” life-support system and greenhouse farm. Other partitions house necessary tools for running the study (communications consoles, ventilation, water supply, electrical panels, recycling, safety monitoring, emergency equipment)

Module 5: The Surface of Mars... Oh just imagine the playtime here!

Mars PollMSNBC ran a poll ... with about 41% yea and 53% nay, but I'm thinking the numbers would have been very different if they'd had this diagram on hand, noting the glaring lack of bathing facilities. Says the Russian scientist heading the project, it's just a little hot steam and towels.

That's right, no hot showers for 18 months. 1250 square feet of space with an ISS workload. Could you?