Crew of mock Mars mission appear healthy, joyful

Nov 08, 2011 By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV , Associated Press
An international crew of researchers, from left, Alexey Sitev of Russia, Romain Charles of France, Suhrob Kamolov of Russia, Alexander Smoleevskiy of Russia, Diego Urbina of Italy/Colombia and Wang Yue of China pose at a news conference after a 520-day simulation of a flight to Mars, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

Staying inside cramped, windowless modules for nearly a year-and-half was a tough challenge for an international crew of six researchers simulating a mission to Mars under 24-hour surveillance by scientists.

They said Tuesday they coped with the fatigue and stress of isolation with simple methods: doing exercises, reading books, trying to learn foreign languages - but above all keeping themselves busy with their work.

The of three , a Frenchman, an Italian-Colombian and a Chinese appeared energetic and joyful at their first news conference after leaving their claustrophobic quarters last Friday.

"I wanted to take part in an interesting adventure and also do something useful for humankind, and I now feel happy that I have succeeded," said Russian team leader Alexey Sitev.

He said there were no conflicts among the crew thanks to thorough preparations and training.

"I actually thought that it would be harder and more stressful for me, and I was surprised how smoothly it went," said Sitev, a blue-eyed, soft-spoken former navy diver.

Sitev, who got married just a few weeks before the start of the mission, said his wife stoically accepted his absence.

"She would have liked for me to stay home of course, but she trusted me and felt that she had to cope with it since it was necessary for me to take part," he said.

Scientists said that long confinement without daylight and fresh air put team members under stress as they grew increasingly tired of one another's company. They warned that challenges are actually stronger on a simulated mission because of the lack of euphoria and risk of a real .

"A key thing that we can't simulate is the feeling of danger," said the mission chief, cosmonaut Boris Morukov. "They were always aware of us following them from behind the wall."

He said the second half of the mission was the most difficult, as the initial challenges of learning to deal with scientific equipment were behind them and the daily routine grew increasingly monotonous.

Morukov said each crew member will be paid about $100,000 for the mission.

Along with more than 100 scientific experiments that kept them busy most of the day, crewmembers watched movies, played computer games and celebrated holidays together.

"This was a success and so we can go forward and now plan to go to Mars and move confidently," said Frenchman Romain Charles.

Italian-Colombian Diego Urbina said social networks helped ease the pressure. "You get the feedback, like all the kids that want to go to Mars, and they tell you so many nice things, many things about their own dreams, and that gives you a lot of impulse to go on," he said.

Explore further: Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'


Related Stories

520-day flight simulation nears 'landing' on Mars

Jan 21, 2011

After 233 days in a locked steel capsule, six researchers on a 520-day mock flight to Mars are all feeling strong and ready to "land" on the Red Planet, the mission director said Friday.

Launch of Mars500 mission on 3 June in Moscow

May 25, 2010

( -- The first full-duration simulation of a human mission to Mars is about to begin. After closing the hatch, the crew of six will remain in their 'spacecraft' for 520 days.

'We are trailblazers' say Mars Mission volunteers

May 18, 2010

The six men who enlisted to be locked up for over 500 days to simulate a mission to Mars called themselves "trailblazers" Tuesday, saying they were ready to face the strain of the isolation.

Moscow 'Mars mission' ends after 520 days

Nov 04, 2011

Six volunteers on Friday stepped out into the outside world after spending the last one-and-a-half-years locked away in an isolation module in Moscow to simulate the effects of a return trip to Mars.

105 days in isolation -- and counting -- for 400 more

Sep 15, 2010

Sailing now in interplanetary space on their simulated mission towards the ‘Red Planet’, the Mars500 crew has entered in a new phase of their isolation. The previous mission endured 105 days in 2009 and ...

Recommended for you

Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'

1 hour ago

A team of scientists has a new explanation for the planet Mercury's dark, barely reflective surface. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers suggest that a steady dusting of carbon from p ...

It's 'full spin ahead' for NASA soil moisture mapper

4 hours ago

The 20-foot (6-meter) "golden lasso" reflector antenna atop NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful ...

What drives the solar cycle?

4 hours ago

You can be thankful that we bask in the glow of a relatively placid star. Currently about halfway along its 10 billion year career on the Main Sequence, our sun fuses hydrogen into helium in a battle against ...

MESSENGER completes 4,000th orbit of Mercury

4 hours ago

On March 25, the MESSENGER spacecraft completed its 4,000th orbit of Mercury, and the lowest point in its orbit continues to move closer to the planet than ever before. The orbital phase of the MESSENGER ...

ESA recovers IXV spaceplane

4 hours ago

ESA's recovered IXV spaceplane arrived at the Port of Livorno in Italy yesterday and is set to be taken to Turin for final analysis.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2011
Nice. While not perfect this exercise demonstrates the part of social dynamics that is critically important; being able to tolerate the same individuals for a year and a half constantly, eating the same foods for so long, etc.

The danger element they couldn't simulate I feel will bring them closer together, in fact I'm sure they'll be crossing their fingers for some moderate dangerous conditions just to have more 'exciting' ways of passing the time, haha.

One aspect to consider is all of the above while _constantly_ aware of the fact that you are not actually safe. Putting all astronauts through this exercise could prove invaluable with respect to astronauts being able to pretend they're in a simulation while experiencing fear while actually in space.... interesting thing to think about.

I hope it all works out in the end, going to mars is going to be amazing. :)
5 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2011
Certainly seems to have worked out better than Biosphere II.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
I would have brought a good cribbage board :)

Does anybody have a link or list of the experiments they did ?

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.