Preparing for a journey to Mars: crew locked for 105 days in simulator – Last opportunity for media

The crew will enter the facility on 31 March
5 March 2009

On 31 March, a crew of six, including a French pilot and a German engineer, will embark on a 105-day simulated Mars mission. They will enter a special facility at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in Moscow, to emerge only three months later.

Their mission will help in understanding the psychological and medical aspects of long-duration spaceflight. Media representatives are invited to meet the participants just before they enter the isolation facility.

Over two days, there will be opportunities for the media to film and take photos of the isolation facility, interview the six participants and project management and meet the Russian and European space authorities. A detailed programme will be published mid-March.

The crew includes two Europeans, Oliver Knickel, a mechanical engineer in the German army, and airline pilot Cyrille Fournier from France. The remaining four crewmembers are Russians. They are cosmonauts Oleg Artemyez and Sergei Ryazansky, Alexei Baranov, a doctor, and Alexei Shpakov, a sports physiologist.

Mars500 facility in Moscow
Mars500 ‘spaceship’

For 105 days, the crew will live in a special isolation facility in Moscow where they will be put through a range of scenarios as if they really were travelling to the Red Planet – including a launch, the outward journey, arrival at Mars and, after an excursion to the surface, the long journey home.

Their tasks will be similar to those they would have on a real space mission. They will have to cope with simulated emergencies, maybe even real emergencies. Communication delays of as much as 20 minutes each way will not make life any easier.

The participants will be subjected to scientific experiments to assess the effect that isolation has on various psychological and physiological aspects.

A bedroom inside the Mars500 facility
A bedroom inside the Mars500 facility

The 105-day study precedes a full simulation of a mission to Mars, due to start later in 2009. This will see another six-member crew sealed in the same chamber to experience a complete 520-day Mars mission. Both studies are part of the Mars500 programme that is conducted by ESA and the Russian IBMP. The Directorate of Human Spaceflight is undertaking Mars500 within its European Programme for Life and Physical Sciences (ELIPS) to prepare for future missions to the Moon and Mars.

Media representatives wishing to attend the event on 30 and 31 March are kindly requested to fill in the attached accreditation form and return it by fax to the ESA Headquarters Media Relations Office by 10 March 2009.

For more information

Markus Bauer
ESA Communication Officer for the Directorate of Human Spaceflight
Communications and Knowledge Department
Phone: + 31 71 565 6799
Email: markus.bauer @ esa.int

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