Simulated Mars mission crew returns to ‘Earth’November 4th, 2011 - 9:11 pm ICT by IANS
Moscow, Nov 4 (IANS) Six researchers who participated in a simulated trip to Mars successfully completed the challenging 520-day mission and returned to “Earth” Friday.
The metal door of their simulated spacecraft was opened around 2 p.m. Moscow time (10 a.m. GMT) and the researchers stepped out of the experimental module for the first time since July 3, 2010, to the applause and cheers from their relatives, officials and journalists, reported Xinhua.
Chinese researcher Wang Yue was among the all-male crew that lived in locked capsules that simulated the confinement, stress and fatigue of interplanetary travel — minus the weightlessness.
The other researchers included team leader Alexei Sitev, Sukhrob Kamolov and Alexander Smolevsky from Russia, Romain Charles from France and Diego Urbina from Italy.
“The crew has completed the experiment,” Sitev reported to Russian space officials. “The mission is accomplished, the crew is in good health and is ready for new missions.”
During the experiment, which aimed to test human physical and psychological stress, the crew communicated with the organisers and their families via internet, which was delayed and occasionally disrupted to imitate the effects of space travel. They ate canned food similar to that offered on the International Space Station (ISS).
The researchers also conducted three mock walks on “Mars,” venturing from their cramped quarters in heavy space suits to trudge into a sand-covered room and plant flags of Russia, China and the European Space Agency on a simulated Red Planet.
Urbina said the crew felt proud to achieve the longest-ever imitation of space flight, so that “humankind can one day greet a new dawn on the surface of distant but reachable planet.”
The facility at Moscow’s Institute for Medical and Biological Problems, Russia’s premier space medicine centre, includes living compartments the size of a bus, connected with several other similarly-sized modules for experiments and exercise.
Vitaly Davydov, a deputy head of the Russian space agency, said the experiment completed Friday will help pave the way for a real Mars mission. He added that it is not expected until mid-2030s and should be done in close international cooperation.
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