Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Simulated Mission to Mars

Source: Popular Science

You thought that cubicle farm at work sucked? Try being a member of the six man team of Russia's upcoming Mars mission simulation; it ain't no cakewalk I can assure you.

Last year Russia performed a 105 day Mars mission abbreviated simulation with great success, and now they aim to up the ante with a full length simulated journey to the red planet.

The first two intrepid crew members have just been announced; one Romain Charles of France and a Columbian-Italian by the name of Diego Urbina. Still to be determined by the end of this month are the three Russian Cosmonauts and a Chinese Taikonaut. No official word on why there aren't any Americans in on this, but either NASA does its own thing or the European Space Agency saw Harland Williams magnum opus Rocketman.

"Blast off" is slated for the 3rd of next month and the simulation will last, get this, 548 days. That is 18 months of isolation in confined quarters. 1.5 years imprisoned in a do it yourself Mars in box. The majority of the simulation will be spent within the 20,000 square foot spacecraft itself, which for six people it not exactly spacious. To think, I used to get cabin fever just sitting in my dorm room ...

The year and a half long mission will take place in a larger simulation container, located in Moscow, consisting not only a spacecraft to simulate the journey but everything that will be involved in an actual Martian mission. The sealed container will be fully equipped with a landing craft and a model of Martian landscape capable of simulating the actual trip to the surface of Mars culminating in a spacewalk that well be a welcomed treat for the few crew members that get to escape the ship for a short while.

No word yet on if they expect to find Val Kilmer or Don Cheadle on the surface. But if I had to guess I would go with Kilmer. It could possibly explain his absence from the big screen for the past few years.

The emphasis on reality is obviously a key component to creating a successful simulation and the European Space Agency isn't cutting corners. Hell, there will even be a 20 minute delay in communications just like in a real mission. They will also throw them the occasional curveballs, as in the life threatening kind, just to keep them on their toes. I guess this means if and when one of the crew members loses and throws the rest of the team out of the airlock it will be to late to salvage the mission.

Here's hoping foreign relations don't get too strained ...

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