Astronauts Break Record for Longest 'Space' Mission

...without actually leaving the planet
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2011 12:25 PM CDT
Members of the Mars500 crew Alexey Sitev of Russia clasp hands before being locked into the Mars500 isolation facility in Moscow on June 3, 2010.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A crew of cosmonauts has broken the record for longest space mission, having spent 438 days in a 12-foot-wide capsule. But they'll also break another record when their mission is up—the record for shortest distance traveled on a space mission—because they've never actually left Moscow in all that time. The Mars500 crew has 82 days left of a 520-day simulated mission to Mars, meant to test the psychological and physical impact of a long-distance space flight. The record for actual time in space is 437 days, set in 2005 by Valeri Polyakov, the Daily Mail reports.

The crew has been in isolation in a Moscow parking lot in a windowless capsule measuring 550 cubic meters, constantly monitored by behavioral specialists. Three of the astronauts left halfway through the mission to simulate the two days spent researching Mars, then re-boarded, but no one has abandoned the mission though they are all free to. They have had limited contact with friends and family via emails and video messages; they eat canned food and "shower" in a sauna-like room just once a week; and they sleep in tiny pods with cot-like beds in living quarters around the size of a bus. Click for more on the mission. (Read more astronauts stories.)

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