Friday, January 14, 2011

Emergency on Mars!


I feel like that was my first tabloid headline. Emergency! But, not really. Just an
update on the dedicated crew of the Mars500, which I track faithfully on Facebook and Twitter. Every time I fear those gents will get bored inside their enclosed "spaceship" facility, new events unfold that show any trip offworld will be full of surprises -- just like how we interact on Earth.

They celebrated numerous holidays in isolation, but appeared to make the best of their confinement with a few special foodstuffs and a pretty decent paper Christmas tree among their makeshift decorations.

Happy New Year From Mars500
The Russians snuck in some vodka again, it would seem...
(Click to see the entire photo gallery)

However, the true measure of fun times came with their New Year 2011 portrait! And such whimsey. Diego's sunglasses were a particularly interesting touch, given that none of them have seen the sun for 226 days now.

I'm glad to see them partying, since the Mars500 YouTube Channel recently showed that the crew had their first onboard emergency. With alarms blaring, the crew described the loss of power on the ship, and the crew was afterward without electricity, water and ventilation for 20 hours.

Not exactly a warp core breach, but all the drama of a sci-fi episode, complete with a happy ending where all systems were restored. Planned test? Unplanned? One must suspect it was a scheduled protocol to see crew reactions, given how oddly cheerful they seemed about the whole thing. But then, a sing-a-long in the dark would always be a good idea when you don't know when your life support system will revive.

In a bit less than a month now, the crew will split into two teams; two will stay aboard the ship, and three "cosmonauts" will move into a separate container to walk on the surface of a mock-up Mars, using modified Russian Orlan spacesuits.

Mars500 Rover
Check out their excellent blog for updates on their Rover-slash-Sampler Robot, and also see their wonderful photo gallery of all the tests on the fake surface of Mars. Such clever preparations, I can't wait to see what happens!