Locked in a Box for Mars Study

While budgets and technology aren’t in any shape to allow us to begin manned missions to Mars, scientists still feel the need to plan for the future and want to perform a study to see just what kind of psychological effects that trip would have on the oh-so-very-alone astronauts during their trip.

Essentially, 6 human test subjects will spend 18 months locked in a small steel capsule in Russia, with no one going in or out, and with all communications delayed by 20 seconds to mimic how it would feel to take a trip between Earth and Mars.  The capsule will be split into four compartments that the crew will spend 500 days inside.  There are no windows.  Since they are going to be physically isolated from the rest of the world, all of the necessary equipment and supplies will be stored in the capsule as well.  “The notion is that the sealed environment will simulate some of the human factors that a small crew would face on a real manned mission to Mars, including limited room to move, a tight and unchanging set of colleagues, stress, motivational issues, tests of their ability to follow instructions and so on.”

To make the simulation as realistic as possible, after 250 days the crew will go into a mock landing capsule and execute a simulated landing afterwards while wearing spacesuits. 

The whole mission sounds like a seriously daunting task, one that will create untold amounts of stress in each one of the participants.  While this experiment is begin performed in a very controlled environment for a specific purpose, if one of the mock astronauts loses their cool, they will be allowed out.  However, and while this hasn’t been made clear, it can be assumed that a lot of conversation, along with convincing justifications, will be needed if anyone is to leave the pod before time is up.

Frankly, I’m not sure if I would be able to handle this exercise.  While it sounds simplistic in its design, there are numerous potential agitators that could drive a person crazy as they participate in this experiment.  If my hesitant attitude disqualifies me for future space travel, then I think I’m ok with that.

What about you all?  Would you be able to hold out for 18 months?

To read the original article, please go to http://www.fastcompany.com/node/1644043/print

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