Monday, February 14, 2011

Footsteps on Mars


The longest space simulation in history today reached the milestone of walking on the red planet! If you've been following my blog for awhile, you know that I love all kinds of simulation activities, and The Mars500 is a particularly in-depth and exciting exploration of how humans may react to the technical challenges and psychological isolation on a 520-day voyage to Mars and back.

This morning has been the most exciting day of the experiment, by far! I have watched the new videos and tweets and Facebook updates with enthusiasm -- but I cannot view them as fast as they are spreading across the web! So here I am, adding to the fray.

Mars500 With Flags of Russia and China
On February 1st, the crew achieved orbit around Mars and opened the hatch to their Martian Landing Module, EU-50. The crew separated into two groups this past Saturday: an orbital crew, and a surface crew who boarded the Martian Lander to perform computer simulations of “undocking” from the main ship.

The Mars 500 Blog has a great video of the virtual EDL, and the controllers are monitoring many of the medical aspects of acceleration effects (0-2gs), and weightlessness. Diego Urbina underwent and described the effects of a few nights of "head-down tilt". Having been through it multiple times myself (once for two months!), I love that they added this component to their simulations!

Mars 500 EVA
The European Space Agency is abuzz with the news of the first spacewalk at the mock Gusev Crater, and SPACE.COM published a wonderful article about the goals of the program, along with updated schematics of the spaceship modules.

Best of all, RT has just now published numerous videos of Diego Urbina and Aleksandr Smoleevsky on their EVA. In the coming week, Wang Yue will also join the Marswalks, so if you're interested in seeing any of the upcoming live streams, their schedule will be as follows:

Feb 18: Second visit to Martian surface - Smoleevsky and Yue.
Feb 22: Third visit to Martian surface - Smoleevsky and Urbina.
Feb 23: Launch from Mars surface back to main ship.
Feb 24: Docking with basic complex, Marswalkers enter quarantine unit.
Feb 27: Quarantine termination, hatch open to living module.

This Thursday is the halfway mark of the mission as a whole (Day #260). As of Day #270, or their "quarantine termination", the crews will rejoin, and begin the journey back to Earth...