Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mars500 Breaks Another Record


Aside from being the largest and most complex simulation ever conducted by space agencies, the Mars500 just broke a record for the longest time a crew has ever spent in isolation. Some papers reported it as the "longest mission but without leaving Earth" – but that's rather a dodge that doesn't give enough credence to their amazing scientific trials, in my humble opinion.

The six men certainly have some iron determination, and none have opted to leave the 520-day simulation of a journey to Mars and back – call it vested interests between the Russian, Chinese and European space agencies.

They've landed on Mars to collect rocks, had some emergencies and stumbles along the way, they've celebrated one year in space, and occasionally they've gotten a little punchy in isolation. Okay, a lot punchy.

And now, the guys are in the home stretch... less than 100 days to go! Today is day #456, so they have just passed the 85% mark. On day 438, they were congratulated by Russian Cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who holds the record for the longest space mission in history, having worked aboard Mir for 437 days.

Technically, he still holds the record for a real mission, but good-naturedly acknowledged the Mars500 for their "spaceflight" surpassing his in simulation. According to Polyakov's video message, it is tradition for Cosmonauts to congratulate their record-breakers.

Mars500 Exercise
Communications delays are dwindling as they grow closer to Earth, and many of their missives to the people sending them messages have a "counting down" mentality. Signs of fatigue? Not obvious, from their twitter feeds, but being human and all, I am sure they have their good days and bad.

The doctors who are monitoring their psychological and physical health have said that the monotony of their routine often affects them, but so far none of them has considered leaving isolation. They are always very aware of how their experiment sheds light on long-duration missions.

I'm looking forward to their landing on November 5th of this year! It will be so cool to watch them open the hatch, pop the champagne corks and ask the crew what they will do first, once they are free! To which I am sure the reply will be…

"When do I get my money?!"