Mars 500 mission is a very interesting experiment worth talking about. Six men, 520 days in ‘space’ (on the ground in Moscow), locked in a ‘spacecraft’ (a set of modules to mimic a spacecraft). All of this to simulate a manned mission to the red planet.
Mars 500 mission is a psychosocial isolation experiment, which took place between 2007-2011. It was organised by Russia, European Space Agency, and China. The actual experiments took place at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in Moscow, Russia.
Over 40,000 people applied to participate in Mars 500 mission and only six were selected:
- Alexey Sergeyevich Sitev, Russian engineer and commander of the mission
- Sukhrob Rustamovich Kamolov, Russian surgeon
- Alexandr Egorovich Smoleevskiy, Russian physiologist
- Romain Charles, 31-year-old French engineer
- Diego Urbina, 27-year-old Italian-Colombian engineer
- Wang Yue, 27-year-old Chinese instructor at the China Astronaut Research and Training Center
Thanks to the mission it was possible to check the effect of isolation on human health and social aspects, as researchers aimed to make the mission as realistic as possible, including a communication lag between Earth and Mars, which is 25 minutes.
The participants had to deal with limited consumables on board. The experiment didn’t simulate weightlessness or cosmic radiation, but other experiments which ran in parallel aimed to answer these questions.
The main part of the Mars 500 mission started on June 3rd 2010 and finished on November 4th 2011 and included three simulated Mars walks in one of the modules. Interestingly, different cultural backgrounds or language difficulties didn’t play an important role in the success of the mission, as participants watched films together, celebrated birthdays, and other occasions like Halloween.
After 520 days, reports showed that participants were in a good physical and psychosocial condition, but reported sleeping problems with some participants avoiding exercise and keeping away from others, which is compared to a hibernation behavior in animals. One of the participants switched to a 25-hour day, which means he wasn’t always aligned with the rest of the crew, e.g. after weeks his midday could be the crew’s night time.
Sleep issues seemed to be the biggest problems as another participant reported sleep loss, which reduced his concentration and he performed worse in computer tests. Another participant started taking longer and longer naps during day hours. This means that only 2 out of the 6 men adjusted well to the mission. Understanding and aligning sleeping patterns may be crucial in a real Mars mission as teams need to work well together and be mentally sharp.
Living on Mars could be initially difficult for first visitors due to its slightly longer day duration of 24.65 hours… So, are you coming with us to Mars? Leave a comment!