International Crew Of Mars500 Mission ‘Lands’ Back On Earth In Moscow
By Srinivas Laxman | Editorials
November 4, 2011
World space history was created today when six young men ‘landed’ back on the earth after a 520-day ‘trip’ to Mars.
AsianScientist (Nov. 4, 2011) – At about 3.30 p.m. (IST) on Friday, world space history was created when six young men – three from Russia, one from Italy, one from France, and one from China – ‘landed’ back on the surface of the earth after a 520-day ‘trip’ to Mars.
The dramatic ‘touchdown’ happened near Moscow, and as the men emerged from their ‘spacecraft’ they were greeted with cheers and applause by family members, space scientists, and members of the medical profession.
In reality, the flight was a simulated mission to the Red Planet, a joint project of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and the European Space Agency (ESA).
Designated as Mars 500, the purpose of the long flight which took off on June 3, 2010 was basically to evaluate how the human body would respond to a long duration space flight.
Each of the astronauts will paid a whopping amount of US$100,000 for their voluntary participation.
Post Apollo missions to the moon, space agencies were seriously planning a human mission to Mars and none other than Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon on July 20,1969, along with Neil Armstrong, keenly backed this project. For a variety of reasons the project never took off, mainly because of the huge cost involved, technical reasons, and the effects such a long mission could have on the astronauts.
In the Russian-led Mars 500 mission, the ‘spacecraft’ was the Institute of Biomedical Problems near Moscow. During their 520-day mission, the six crew members performed more than 100 experiments.
To add to their sense of isolation, communication with the mission control were artificially delayed to mimic natural delays over great distances like an actual nine-month flight to Mars.
The mission commander was 38-year-old Alexey Sitav. The remaining five were: Romain Charles of France (31); Sukhrob Kamalov of Russia (38); Alex Smoleevskiy of Russia (32); Diego Ubrina of Italy (27), and Yue Wang of China (27). Participation was voluntary and the team was chosen after a rigorous screening process conducted jointly by the ESA and Roscosmos.
The crew’s performance in the simulated hostile environment exceeded expectations and when they came out of the ‘spacecraft’ on Friday afternoon, they said that they were ready to undertake an actual flight to Mars.
To provide a realistic effect, on February 12 this year, the crew did a simulated undocking from the mother spacecraft and ‘landed’ on the surface of Mars. Three of them ‘walked’ on the Red Planet wearing actual space suits. They departed from Mars on February 23 and ‘joined’ the main spacecraft to begin their nine-month ‘return journey’ back to earth.
Since they have spent 520 days cut away from the rest of the world as will happen on a trip to Mars, during the debriefing period the crew was screened for psychological problems like what is known as social narrowing.
During a shorter flight to Mars in 2000, there were quarrels among the crew members.
The Mars 500 mission is significant because Russia has not ruled out a manned mission to Mars in the years ahead. So, one should not be surprised if Russia launches the first manned mission to Mars. As some space experts have stated before, it could even be China considering that this country has participated in this challenging project.
On account of the exorbitant costs involved, such a mission will be an international one with crew members from different countries.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: European Space Agency.
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