Europe Closes In on Mock Mars Trip

Psychological experiment to test effects of isolation
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2010 12:55 PM CDT
Prospective crew members pose with ESA Director of Human Spaceflight Simonetta Di Pippo   (AFP/Getty)

(Newser) – The European Space Agency today introduced the four finalists vying for the questionable privilege of being locked inside a cramped fake spaceship for 17 months. Dubbed Mars 500, the project aims to study the psychological stresses of a journey to the Red Planet. “You need to be a little bit crazy” to do this, one of the finalists tells Aol News. But “when the first human steps on Mars, I can actually say, ‘Yeah, I helped do that.’”

“The main obstacle of a human mission to Mars is not the technology,” explains one scientist. It’s “the human mind.” Two of the four Europeans will join the fake crew, accompanied by one Chinese "astronaut" and three Russians. They’ll have extremely limited contact with the outside world, at one point speaking to “mission control” on a 40-minute delay, and for some months only through email. But scientists worry the test could have a fundamental flaw: participants can quit, an option that could affect their psychology.

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