Europe names crew for Mars 'mission'

February 26, 2009
This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows Mars in 2005. The European Space Agency (ESA) on Friday named a Frenchman and a German who will join four Russians in an innovative 105-day isolation experiment to test whether humans can one day fly to Mars.

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Friday named a Frenchman and a German who will join four Russians in an innovative 105-day isolation experiment to test whether humans can one day fly to Mars.

From March 31, the six "crew" will be locked inside a special facility in Moscow that replicates conditions of a space trip to Mars.

The simulation will be followed by a 520-day experiment, starting later this year, that would last as long as a real mission to Mars.

The two Europeans are Oliver Knickel, 28, a mechanical engineer in the German army, and Cyrille Fournier, 40, a captain with Air France who flies A320 airliners, ESA said in a press release.

The distance between Earth and Mars varies between 55 million kilometres (34 million miles) and more than 400 million kms (250 million miles).

Using current rocket technology, a there-and-back trip to the Red Planet would take at least 18 months.

Maintaining the crew's mental and physical health is deemed by space scientists to be as challenging as gathering the money and technical resources for the historic trip.

The six guinea pigs will be scrutinised for stress, mood, hormone regulation, immune defences and sleep quality.

Researchers also want to know whether dietary supplements will sustain their health.

The simulation will include all the main elements of a simulated Mars mission, including travelling to Mars, orbiting the planet, landing on its surface and returning to Earth, ESA said.

"The crew will only have personal contact with each other, plus voice contact with a simulated control centre and family and friends," it said.

"A 20-minute delay will be built into communications with the control centre to simulate an interplanetary mission and the crew will eat the same food as the astronauts on the International Space Station."

The project is a joint venture between ESA's Directorate of Human Spaceflight and the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP).

ESA and NASA have separately sketched dates around three decades from now for a manned flight to Mars.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Talking to Mars—new antenna design will aid interplanetary communication

Related Stories

The dwarf planet Ceres

August 12, 2015

The asteroid belt is a pretty interesting place. In addition to containing between 2.8 and 3.2 quintillion metric tons of matter, the region is also home to many minor planets. The largest of these, known as Ceres, is not ...

How much contamination is OK on Mars 2020 rover?

August 11, 2015

When the Mars 2020 rover arrives on the Red Planet, one of its primary mission goals will be to select and preserve samples that would eventually make it back to Earth for scientific study. Rather than seeking to eliminate ...

Comet 67P, robot lab Philae's alien host, nears Sun

August 10, 2015

A comet streaking through space with a European robot lab riding piggyback will skirt the Sun this week, setting another landmark in an extraordinary quest to unravel the origins of life on Earth.

Recommended for you

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Ceres image: The lonely mountain

August 25, 2015

NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers).

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

definitude
1 / 5 (2) Feb 27, 2009
How about sending up three expoditions at once, in the same window of oppertunity. This way we will not have to deal with the isolation factor.
out7x
1.5 / 5 (2) Feb 27, 2009
Isolation will not be a factor. Cosmic radiation will.
Suzu
1 / 5 (1) Feb 27, 2009
Problem is, they'll still be aware that they are on earth. Only 1 test group. /shrug
ScottyB
1 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2009
Space radiation wont necessarily be a problem, look here http://www.physor...546.html

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.