Observations: Crew of 520-day mock Mars mission nears mock landing

Okay, it’s late, but I really want to keep my Post-a-day record going. So, I’m cheating a little by using the “Press This” feature for WordPress. I actually read this article a few days ago and clicked my “Press This” button, which automatically created this new post with a link to the article.

The story is about a crew from Russia and the European Space Agency simulating a mission to Mars. According to the article, “[t]he six men—three from Russia and one each from China, Italy and France—entered the 550-cubic-meter facility in June 2010, and the plan is to keep them there until the end of the simulated Mars round-trip in November 2011.”

Observations: Crew of 520-day mock Mars mission nears mock landing.

The plan is for three of the men to “land” on Mars and explore while the other three must stay aboard the “ship.” This would be something like the Apollo Moon missions in which two of the Astronauts went down to the surface while one stayed on the ship.

Even the “Mars” exploration will be done on a large enclosure–so the lucky dudes who get off the ship won’t actually be going outdoors. And they will need to be in spacesuits just as they would on actual Mars.

It’s an interesting test of endurance. The mock mission avoids a lot of the hazards of space exploration, but that claustrophobic, stuck in a tube thing is just as real for these guys as if they were in space.

I recently watched a Nova ScienceNOW episode about some of the preparations being made for a trip to Mars and it is daunting. Relatively simple things like making food that will last for a trip that will take years becomes a major problem.

It seems like it should be easy–we have ships that can escape earth orbit and the space station shows people can survive for long periods of time in space. The next leap to planetary exploration should happen at warp speed, shouldn’t it?

Except that warp speed isn’t invented yet. Things like artificial gravity and terraforming planets are theories in varying degrees of development. The Nova ScienceNow episode showed one possible artificial gravity simulator that could serve as a sort of exercise room. But this is a far stretch from Captain Kirk walking around on the Enterprise.

So–this small step for mankind–simulating a trip to Mars on the surface of the Earth isn’t such a small feat. It is just one of many hurdles we mere humans must overcome before a few of us make the actual trip to where no man has gone before (but a couple of rovers paved the way).

Personally, I’d rather take a trip to Mars in my imagination–through books and movies. “Total Recall” is my fave Mars movie. As for Mars books–I like Mosaic, the biography of Captain Janeway (Star Trek Voyager), which has some crucial chapters set on Mars.

What’s your favorite space book or movie (set on Mars or anywhere in space).

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