How do you think of Mars? For generations of people the world round, Mars was thought of as the planet with the little green men called martians, who had antennas for ears and maybe reminded you of Kazoo from the Flintstones. As technology has progressed though through the years, we have gotten a bit clearer view of the mystery planet. Pictures of its surface have been sent back, helping scientists learn some things about its existence. Now though, a crew is "landing" on Mars for the first time.
Ok, so its a simulation landing, but it is interesting none the less. A project being dubbed "Mars500" is underway, with the involvement of the European Space Agency, Russia, and China. As the name suggests, Mars500 is a 500 day simulation of what it would be like to make the long trip to Mars, conduct experiments and such for a period of time while there, then turn around and make the long trip back to Earth. This simulation will be the longest ever conducted in space like conditions.
The simulation is being conducted at The Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, and commenced in June. The crew is six men who are from various space backgrounds, and are being put through some real life scenarios while they are on the simulated ship. In reality, these men are in a windowless mock-up of a spaceship, but they are locked in with different scenarios planned and then given the same equipment to conduct experiments
One of the more fascinating experiments taking place, as cited by the MSNBC article on the subject. are the experiments being conducted observing the astronauts themselves. The supposition all along has been that if you put this number of men confined in a relatively small space, then you're bound to get some reactions, positive or negative. Collecting this kind of data will be imperative to examine in the long run.
In essence, scientists are trying to determine if someday, man would be able to survive a flight to Mars (the simulation had it taking like 80 days to reach Mars), then of course be able to conduct experiments in the mean time. The other thing would be to see how the interaction between crew members, or crew members and mission control are affected by the long time in isolation. Whichever way it turns out, it is sure to give scientists key insight into one day placing a man on mars.