The Mars 500 "Launches"

Posted by Patrick James

Back in March Cliff Kuang wrote about the Mars 500, a simulator that will put a crew of six men in a small ship replica in a warehouse on the campus of the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems—for 520 days. The Guardian reports that the mission has now "launched."

But as the six fearless volunteers this afternoon sealed themselves inside a simulated mission to Mars, grinning and waving goodbye to their families before "blast-off", scientists insisted they were embarking on an unprecedented experiment that was no laughing matter.

The crewmen – three are Russian, one French, one Chinese and one a Colombian-born Italian – won't emerge from their isolation until November 2011.

Their goal is to recreate a return journey to the red planet, spanning a year and a half, complete with simulated emergency situations and realistic psychological pressures.

All the crew members are male, which the organizers hope will prevent such occurences as a 1999 brawl between two men over an attempted kiss of a female astronaut during a similar experiment. Could you endure the psychological pressure of spending 520 days in that kind of isolation?