Traveling to Mars in Your Parents’ 1970s Living Room

mars-test

[image via NYTimes]

In an experiment designed to test the psychological effects of a manned mission to Mars, an international crew of six potential space-farers will be locked inside hermetically sealed tubes for 105 days as the first step of the Moscow-based Mars-500 project. “It is really like a real space flight without the weightlessness and the danger to our lives,” says potential cosmonaut Sergei N. Ryazansky. Russia, who is leading this project, is amping up their space program at a time when the US is poised to stop their shuttle program. But the Mars-500 scientists assure us that International politics play no role in this current pursuit and this is most assuredly not another space race. “We are working not only for ourselves but for the future of humanity.”

Giving new meaning to 1970s cop show Life on Mars, the simulated spacecraft is composed of four sealed modules built in the 1970s for early isolation and space station experiments. It shows. Will there be psychological affects resulting from living in a completely wood-paneled space? And what – no conversation pit? Thankfully the modules have been updated with new, advanced life-support systems and experimental greenhouses which, according to the first project diary entry from subject Oliver Knickel, is being used to grow vegetables to “spice up” their food…and um, presumably absorbing CO2 and creating Oxygen as well. After the jump, more details and a diagram of the module.

mars500facility

[image via the ESA Mars-500 website. Click the image for a larger version with explanations.]

The 550 m3 isolation facility is composed of a habitable module, medical module, storage module, and a “Mars landing module simulator.” This last module will only be used during the simulated 30-day orbiting phase.
mars-tank

[image via the ESA Mars-500 website]

Next year, the Russian-led project will begin phase 2: a 520 day simulation. This time frame approximates the length of an entire manned mission to Mars – from takeoff to touchdown and back again.

&#183 Staying Put on Earth, Taking a Step to Mars [NYT]
&#183 The Prefabricated Lunar Architecture of the Saturn V Rocket [Life Without Buildings]
&#183 From the Earth to the Moon, To Live in a Balloon [LWB]