Since I was a young child Mars held a special fascination for me. It was so close and yet so faraway. I have never doubted that it once had advanced life and still has remnants of that life now. I am a dedicated member of the Mars Society,Norcal Mars Society National Space Society, Planetary Society, And the SETI Institute. I am a supporter of Explore Mars, Inc. I'm a great admirer of Elon Musk and SpaceX. I have a strong feeling that Space X will send a human to Mars first.
With the holidays rapidly approaching, most of us are anticipating the long break, free from the stresses of school. We're looking forward to spending time with our family members, enjoying the home-cooked meals and opening our presents on Christmas Day. However the six members of the Mars500 mission test will be spending their holidays locked in a steel container somewhere in Russia.
The rapid expansion of available technology has many explorers looking towards the skies. Particularly out at our next door neighbor, Mars. Exploring this planet would once and for all stifle or support the existence of life on other planets. In the words of Jodie Foster in the movie Contact, "I don't know if we're alone or not, but if we are, isn't it an awful big waste of space?" and I'm in complete agreement with her in that respect.
The Mars500 mission is a test run of what issues astronauts might face in their journey to another planet. Six crew members are taking part in this trial run: Romain Charles, Sukhrob Kamolov, Alexey Sitev, Alexandr Smoleevskiy, Diego Urbina, and Yue Wang. These men were placed within a capsule specially designed to mimic their future space craft. On Jun. 3, the door was sealed. These men will remain in isolation from the rest of the world for the next 520 days with only each other to keep company.
These men will be rehearsing all of the techniques and tasks they will need to perform during their journey to Mars, their one month exploration of mars, and the subsequent journey back home. During this mock 18 month journey, the crew will also experience the up to 20 minutes in communication delays between Earth and the onboard crew.
The training for such a journey is no doubt difficult. Due to extended living in a low gravity environment, the crew must exercise at least two hours every day; something that would make most of us Earthbound folk cringe. The other downside of this is that they are only allowed a shower once a week.
The other great challenge the crew will face, aside from isolation, is the fact that the only thing keeping them alive is the technology they've brought with them. If anything fails during their mission, they will only have the tools they have and will be unable to rely on any outside help. There is definitely no towing service available in space, nor will a team and shuttle be able to be launched in time to assist them. Once they leave Earth, they are completely on their own.
If you are interested in learning more about their journey, the crew maintains both regular written diaries of their trial and uploads a video diary as well. These are available on the European Space Agency website at www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars500/index.html.
If this trial run goes as expected, we could be landing on another planet in less than a decade.