Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mars 500 Q&A


Now that the Mars500 men are sealed up for a year, I'll be checking their updates more often again, and discussing them here.

I actually have to be careful when I browse around about this sim, because I have been known to "lose time" doing so, LOL... particularly now since they have a Mars500 Facebook page, Twitter feed, and YouTube channel!

Just before they closed the hatch...
MARS 500
Top row: Sukhrob Kamolov (Russian) & Romain Charles (French)
Lower row: Wang Yue (Chinese), Alexandr Smoleevskiy (Russian)
Alexey Sitev (Russian) & Diego Urbina (Italian-Colombian)

And now for some Q&A from fellow readers, as I noticed this caused a flurry of activity here and on Facebook!

Alex Tkaczevski of Buffalo, NY asks: This is very exciting! Is this similar to the Mars Society's simulations? I wonder if the wood paneling in the simulator will skew the results? Or will the actual Russian Mars mission have earthy decor?
Quite similar! But longer and heavier on the medical and psychological protocols. One of the participants, Diego Urbina, has actually already done Mars Society sims too. He was astro-biologist on Crew #88 at the Mars Desert Research Station. The Mars500 main website has a full list of all they hope to accomplish. However, I have no idea about future space ship decor. I assume they tried to make this as comfortable as possible... because they could :)

Mantic59 of the US says: This will be interesting to follow but I am very skeptical that they'll complete it. Too many psychological factors.
I also have my doubts, but I am very hopeful, and have so much respect for these men for dedicating a piece of their lives (without women or the comforts of Earth!) to important questions about space travel. Will they remain healthy? Over time, will they remain able and willing to carry out their tasks on the ship? It may be difficult for 6 guys in a small space to get along every single day, and I am sure they will have their moments of doubt, conflict and challenge.

I remember when I did my first simulation study, which was to last 105 days. A few weeks in, I had a moment where I thought, "What did I get myself into?!" That may happen tenfold for them, considering the time, effort and self-sufficiency involved. They may prove that long-duration flight is indeed possible -- but then again, they may also wind up proving that extended trips through space will be much harder than we imagine. We'll know by November of 2011!

Amnon Govrin of Superior, CO says: I Don't know what's harder - being in the real thing on your way to Mars, where no one has gone before... or in a simulation, at arms reach if anything goes wrong but not going to Mars. With work on new propulsion, I wonder if the real mission will end up being that long. Regardless, it is probably the longest 24x7 experiment in human behavior ever done.

I googled around, trying to find the longest experiment or simulation involving isolation, but was not able to find anything definitive. It's entirely possible longer ones have been done, but I would doubt any encompassed all the activities and protocols of the Mars500. I also wonder if our rocket technology will catch up with our desire to reach Mars -- but even if it does, we humans will always be dreaming of the next giant leap. I believe we need examine long duration travel through the vacuum, wherever that turns out to be...

Blogger Norman Copeland asks: I wonder what tooth paste they use?
LOL, you can ask them! This week on their blog, they have invited space enthusiasts to pose questions to the crew, which they will answer in the next week before communications are restricted due to distance simulation. You can also post questions on their twitter feed if the blog page isn't saving them (sometimes it gets a little squirrely between the English and Russian mirrors).

Note the great widget on their blog at the very bottom that shows elapsed time of the mission. Day 10 already!

Barry in Texas says: I was a space nut as a kid - but knew I couldn't be an astronaut. (I had one cavity at that time, and in those days astronauts could not even have a cavity). Very interesting stuff - I hope it actually takes off!
I think the same applied to these gentlemen... and they better pray they don't get their first cavities in that tin can! The Chinese astronaut corps also revived the "no tooth cavities" rule recently in their selection process.

Blogger Ruth Hochman of Los Angeles, CA said: I need to learn more about what this means... implications and all... pray tell...! Congrats on your new job!
Thanks hun! I enjoy it, but I’d rather be blogging, LOL… hope you will continue to follow along...