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Volunteer to Simulate a Mars Mission for the ESA

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the 17-months-seems-fair-to-me dept.

Space 209

number6x writes "The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking for volunteers for a simulated trip to Mars. The simulation will put a crew of six in isolation for 17 months. The crew will be made up of 4 Russians and 2 Europeans. In all the ESA will need 12 volunteers for back up purposes. Seventeen months was chosen to simulate the time needed for the journey to Mars and back, as well as a 30 day period spent doing experiments on the red planet."

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209 comments

Will they be allowed to have sex? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19578725)

Simple question. Will they be allowed to have sex?

Re:Will they be allowed to have sex? (-1)

ronadams (987516) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578795)

Let's get it all out now: /. Commenter A: In Soviet Russia, space program participates in YOU! /. Commenter B: I, for one, welcome our new simulated astronaut overlords /. Commenter A, C, D-K inclusive: I'm a simulated astronaut, you insensitive clod!

Re:Will they be allowed to have sex? (0, Offtopic)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578933)

You forgot

1. Lock up 12 dorks in a confined space for a year and a half.
2. ???
3. Profit.

Maybe because Endemol already proved that 2 is "make a TV show out of it". Ok, I shut up.

Re:Will they be allowed to have sex? (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579159)

From a bit of quiet gossip, both Russia and America has conducted experiments of sex in space (mir and ISS). In addition, EU and Russian are nowhere near as prudish as America is (they are LONG past the neo-con stage). I would be surprised if either groups (EU|russia) is going to object to sex.

Re:Will they be allowed to have sex? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579693)

From a bit of quiet gossip, both Russia and America has conducted experiments of sex in space (mir and ISS).
Be careful, there have been some hoaxes around about that. In particular, I have been unable to find any evidence of american experience about it (russians are more secretive) There have been plans, but probably no real experiment.

Would you want it that flying around the room? (1)

CasperIV (1013029) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580013)

Think about it, zero gravity and one mistake could put out an eye. Not to mention traumatize someone for life.

Re:Will they be allowed to have sex? (4, Insightful)

cmeans (81143) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580127)

They might not object to sex, but they might object to babies... 17 months is plenty of time to increase the crew complement.

Re:Will they be allowed to have sex? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19579249)

I am sure they can find many marry (wo)men after 20 years marriage or so hope they are not forced to.

Re:Will they be allowed to have sex? (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579703)

There was a rather interesting story written in the 50s or 60s about prostitutes being sent up to Mars to help relieve the crew.

The most interesting part? It was written by CS Lewis (not sure if it was in his pre-Christian days or not).

Oh the humanity! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19578763)

Four Russians and two Europeans cooped up for 17 months in a confined space? Do you have any idea how bad that's going to smell? It's going to be like feet wrapped in leathery, burnt bacon. Ewwww!

Re:Oh the humanity! (1)

EugeneK (50783) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580135)

Unlike 17 months with Americans who always smell like rose petals and potpurri!

Do they intend to simulate (4, Funny)

RealGene (1025017) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578771)

...bone loss, extended radiation exposure, and catastrophic micrometeorite punctures?
That would be a reality show worth watching...
--Gene

Re:Do they intend to simulate (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579445)

With all the reality shows, it's amazing they haven't come up with a show where they lock a bunch of people in a small "space capsule". They already have issues with people arguing when they are living in luxury mansions or deserted islands, but just imagine if you locked them all in a small box. They wouldn't be able to simulate 0 g, or radiation or any other environmental factors, but it would be nice to study the social factors.

Re:Do they intend to simulate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19579893)

There was a reality space show in the UK last year, on Channel 4. They collected a group of retards, put them through astronaut training, told them about the new discovery of artificial gravity, etc, then launched them into space. In a simulator. I've forgotten what it was called.

Re:Do they intend to simulate (1)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580361)

Space Cadets.
They also had two actors amongst them, to aid groupthink conformity against the illusion.
They convinced them they'd flown to Russia... they flew in a circle and landed in Wales, I think.

Strong recommendation (4, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578787)

The entire crew should be made up of nerds and geeks. They can do 17 months without sex standing on their heads.

Re:Strong recommendation (5, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578825)

They can do without sex, sure...but the simulated latency on WoW would demoralize them within a week. ^_^

Re:Strong recommendation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19579145)

Yeah, they should give them untold terabytes of pron instead. Take care of two birds with one stone.

Re:Strong recommendation (1)

andrewd18 (989408) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579419)

Just tell them that the trade-off is no more patch Tuesdays. I bet that will bring their morale right back up.

Re:Strong recommendation (1)

willie_nelsons_pigta (1006979) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578885)

Is that a requirement for astronauts these days, to be able to have sex while standing on their heads for 17 months?

I wouldn't be able last more that 7 minutes or so (evil grin). I get such a headache from that.

Re:Strong recommendation (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580031)

The entire crew should be made up of nerds and geeks. They can do 17 months without sex standing on their heads.

Speak for yourself. After 17 months, I'm gonna be standing on someone else's head or generally showing some really abnormal behaviour (well, even more abnormal behaviour I guess). :-P

Cheers

Bah, the Dutch did this years ago.... (3, Funny)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578807)

Only we called it "Big Brother", and it was the end of tv as we knew it.

Re:Bah, the Dutch did this years ago.... (1, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578897)

*blink*

You just gave me a billion dollar idea. Round up all those BB losers and fire them off to Mars. After all, they already proved that they can survive 17 years sitting on top of each other.

Yeah, every week someone gets kicked out the airlock, but then again, I mean, who'd miss 'em?

Fw: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19578829)

ETA = AL-QAEDA

Interesting ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19578847)

"Communications with the simulated mission control and loved-ones will take up to 40 minutes"
They're running Vista?

Re:Interesting ... (1)

jddj (1085169) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579919)

I understand why they have to simulate Mission Control, but why do they have to simulate loved ones?

Re:Interesting ... (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580141)

Because no one in a serious relationship will tolerate their SO going away for 17 months to pretend being an astronaut.

Simulating the wrong mission (3, Insightful)

Anthonares (466582) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578853)

Virtually all modern plans for Mars missions follow the same basic timeline: 6 months travel to Mars, 2 years on the planet, and 8 months back. The idea of a 30-day stay on the planet was abandoned long ago by NASA.

This simulation takes away the huge reward of the long travel time, and replaces it with a brief 30 day stint of freedom.

They'll surely get interesting results, they just won't be worth anything when it comes time to actually plan a real manned Mars mission.

Re:Simulating the wrong mission (4, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578987)

The hard part will be getting there and back; they need to know the levels of cabin fever that are going to occur and they need to be able to test that in a simulated environment.

Locking people in a tank for 17 months and watching how they deal with each other is a valuable experiment. Spending 2 years running around the desert in a spacesuit to simulate martian experiments...Now that would be worthless.

Re:Simulating the wrong mission (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579043)

Well that not entirely fair. for the simulation how would the simulate time on mars? You mention the promise of freedom, but what freedom would you have in a simulation like this. Even when you on the planet (simulated) your still going to be trapped because it will still be the simulation? This makes more sense in my head than it does on screen but do you see what I'm trying to get at?

Re:Simulating the wrong mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19579155)

In the Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson had the crew train in the dry valleys of Antarctica to simulate time on the Martian surface.

Re:Simulating the wrong mission (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579493)

One of the most underappreciated trilogy's from the past century. Everyone who considers themselves a nerd or a geek should read them.

Re:Simulating the wrong mission (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579645)

>>Virtually all modern plans for Mars missions follow the same basic timeline: 6 months travel to Mars, 2 years on the planet, and 8 months back.

They need to really wait on a Mars mission until this is fairly cheap and easy, or it will kill the manned space program. 2 years of media coverage will overload the general public's appetite. It will be like the moon program all over again; people will get bored with it and say "mission complete" and start saying we should be spending our money on something else.

Re:Simulating the wrong mission (1)

rhyder128k (1051042) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579739)

"They'll surely get interesting results, they just won't be worth anything when it comes time to actually plan a real manned Mars mission."

I'm sure they will make lots of interesting finds. For example, they might stumble onto some interesting approaches to organizing shift rotation, team organization and job management.

Ideally, they would simulate all of this in a real spaceship but that just isn't cost effective. Are you saying that they /shouldn't/ attempt a simulation of this sort and intead just see what happens once they get out into space?

Re:Simulating the wrong mission (1)

Anthonares (466582) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580181)

No, what I'm saying is that they should simulate a more realistic mission profile/timeline. 17 months of almost continual confinement to a small ship will be dismal. In fact, any long simulation like this without the firm knowledge that it will greatly contribute to our success in an eventual mission would be dismal.

If they had a couple of years to explore a simulated Mars environment (as is the plan currently) in between arrival and the return journey, they would have some relief.

Too bad.. (2, Interesting)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578887)

17 months still won't simulate their worst obstacles. Radiation and extreme conditions are still factors that are keeping them from going there at the moment. I doubt that controlling the spacecraft and living conditions will vary much from current space station accomodations.

Re:Too bad.. (4, Insightful)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579055)

wouldn't it suck if we worked all that out but still had to wait another 17 months while we figured out the psychological effects?

What they fail to mention in the summary (3, Informative)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578921)

You get paid 120 EUR / day. And if I understood correctly, it's counted as "allowance", meaning it's tax-free..

Re:What they fail to mention in the summary (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579047)

Sounds like a fair lot 'til you realize that this is for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that your hourly wage is about 5 bucks. Whether you're awake or sleeping, granted, but then again, I do value my privacy somewhat.

But hey, here's an idea. How about stuffing all those "if you got nothing to hide..." people in there? I'm pretty sure it might make them reevaluate that stance.

Re:What they fail to mention in the summary (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19579725)

your hourly wage is about 5 bucks

Huh? 120 EUR / day is 20 EUR / hour, which is approximately 27 USD / hour. You are underestimating the pay by over 80%.

Re:What they fail to mention in the summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19579989)

120 / 24 = 5

Re:What they fail to mention in the summary (3, Informative)

daivzhavue (176962) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580011)

120Eur / 24hours in a day = 5Eur/hour

You're underestimating how to use a calculator by over 80%.

Re:What they fail to mention in the summary (1)

bestinshow (985111) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580045)

I don't think I could handle a 6 hour day. 3 hours of light, 3 hours of dark. It would be rather hectic.

Even if you assumed that they were doing 8 hours of work a day (a far more reasonable assumption) then it's 15 per hour. Never mind the overtime (another 8 hours) that's unpaid (or 7.50 an hour overall). We'll assume that sleeping is time off.

On the other hand, tax free and no way to spend it? You'll come out with ~60k which isn't bad as a savings scheme if you're young, or just retired (rent out your house and get even more retirement money!).

Re:What they fail to mention in the summary (1)

Slashamatic (553801) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579803)

If you were paid according to Russian law, you would pay just 10% income tax. Thats all now.

Re:What they fail to mention in the summary (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580041)

That's a good paycheck. After converting that's 160.65 US dollars a day. That's a 41k a year salary. Which from my view of the world is pretty good. Where do I sign up?

They could fund the mission by doin a reality show (2, Interesting)

master_p (608214) | more than 6 years ago | (#19578925)

Since they would put the 6 people in isolation, they could sell that as a reality show and fund the mission.

Re:They could fund the mission by doin a reality s (1)

EMeta (860558) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579081)

That's really funny, but it's also really true. They're certainly going to be monitoring them with several cameras and mics already.

*shiver*

The future of space travel just lost so many geek points.

Simulated radiation trauma? (1, Redundant)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579011)

Please correct me if I am wrong: From what I understand, the major danger from trips to Mars is poor shielding from cosmic rays and other forms of radiation during the trip. Any progress on that?

Re:Simulated radiation trauma? (3, Funny)

Troed (102527) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579097)

Yes. The location for this experiment is going to be close to the LHC - which will finish in this timescale and provide the participants with the needed cosmic rays.

Re:Simulated radiation trauma? (3, Interesting)

Von Helmet (727753) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579197)

Interestingly, I read about a bunch of tiny worms on their way back from space. They've been up there long enough to produce 25 generations and scientists are going to examine their DNA to see if it's changed along the way due to aforementioned radiation.

Links at Google News [google.co.uk].

Re:Simulated radiation trauma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19579497)

If any worms are left, the worms had SEX

The answer is WOW (0, Flamebait)

Dareth (47614) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579031)

Provide a solid net connection, and a free account or two...

Volunteers should come flocking in.

Re:The answer is WOW (1)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580159)

Wouldn't work. Round trip on info packets to Mars would be about 40 minutes, per TFA. That's a hell of a lot of latency. Nobody would group with them...

Just think... (5, Funny)

spungo (729241) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579041)

Every single day, the same routine, the same faces, the same surroundings, the same conversations... or I could leave IT and sign up for this!

/. is falling behind (4, Funny)

phrostie (121428) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579061)

/. is falling behind. this is old news.

my wife was trying to volunteer me for this yesterday.

wait,,,

I Volunteer (1)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579127)

I volunteer to simulate various aliens. I can modify swimming pool blow-up toys and make scary noises when I flash them past the isolation chamber windows.

30 days?! (2, Interesting)

carpe_noctem (457178) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579157)

A 30 day trip to mars after 8 months of travel would be like a family driving the kids to Disneyland, riding on one ride, and then everybody back in the car for the ride home!

I understand that this experiment is probably limited by funds, not a realistic simulation, etc.... but really, 30 days?

Re:30 days?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19579325)

Didn't the Griswolds already make a documentary about this?

Re:30 days?! (3, Insightful)

Loke the Dog (1054294) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579661)

The alternative is 2 years, as I understand it. The problem is that Mars and Earth are only close to each other every second year or so. You have to go there as they are moving closer, and leave before they part too far again, or you have to stay there for another cycle.

Now, 30 days is a bit short, but 2 years is too long. 17 months, with 30 days on the planet, vs 40 months with 24 months on the planet.

Re:30 days?! (1)

carpe_noctem (457178) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580069)

True. But it's not like we're planning on launching a real manned mars mission in the next 2-3 years, so they might as well...

Its the new Big Brother (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579227)

Just stick 3 camera in each room and a "live" feed back to Earth. Might have a hard time voting people out though.

social, not ecological isolation (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579259)

The space station has quasi-ecological isolation. Although they get re-supplied almost every month and have the option of immediate escape.

Ecological isolation didnt quite work in Biosphere II (soon to become condos). It was hard to keep the atmosphere in balance and grow enough food. Most participants lost 1/4 to 1/3 of weight.

Re:social, not ecological isolation (3, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579549)

Most participants lost 1/4 to 1/3 of weight.



They should have made it a diet center instead of using the space for condos, then.


That aside, IMHA Biosphere II used the wrong approach - too many things at once (several different ecosystems, lots of species, etc). A better approach could be to find the minimum number of species that is necessary (which means that there'll be a lot of algae and fungi, and not all that many vertebrates and insects), and determine what type of inputs and outputs are necessary (even on the most barren planet, there'll be some local resources to use).

Aren't Russians European? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579283)

The definition of Russian sounds weird to me.

Re:Aren't Russians European? (1)

Rocketship Underpant (804162) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579705)

Well, most of Russia is located in the Asian continent.

However, in this case, the blurb is slightly inaccurate. The ESA actually wants two citizens of ESA countries and four Russians.

Re:Aren't Russians European? (1)

Loke the Dog (1054294) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579883)

Well, the definition of europe has varied over time, and there's always much debate around it.

The russians I've talked wouldnt mind at all that people didnt call them europeans, they simply see themselves as russians and nothing else.

And besides its a bit like "American". Europe is more and more becomming another word for the EU.

Re:Aren't Russians European? (1)

Jonathan (5011) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579915)

Parts of Russia (Siberia, for example) are in Asia. Additionally, Russia is not politically European -- it is not part of the EU.

Enough with the "solar radiation" comments (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579369)

There's a hell of a lot more to going to Mars that we need to understand and this experiment fills in some of the picture. Not that the radiation danger isn't important, but other experiments can deal with that problem. This requires an unprecedented combination of restriction and isolation. I think that we're going to find that the psychological impact on "astronauts" will change how we're going to need to design these missions. So, no Mars Direct-style flights in small cramped spacecraft. I suspect that the mission lengths will mandate larger, roomier spacecraft with more amenities. Which means no Mars flight by 2030 or whatever they're saying now.

Re:Enough with the "solar radiation" comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19579591)

I've often thought that submariners would make good candidates for long space flights. They've been screened for reactions to isolation and close quarters.

Use the existing facilities (1, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579433)

They should use the old Apollo sets they used when they faked the moon landings. ;)

Re:Use the existing facilities (1)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580201)

They'd have to get red photo filters, but only for the set, unless they want to explain to us why the actors are dressed in red and have reddish tinges to their faces.

Backup? (3, Funny)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579455)

In all the ESA will need 12 volunteers for back up purposes.
Me != Hard disk drive, thank you very much. Europeans..

I'm getting antsy just thinking about this... (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579507)

Being confined to a tin can with 5 other people for 17 months is the most horrifying prospect I've ever dared to ponder.

Re:I'm getting antsy just thinking about this... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579533)

You must not be confident in your manipulation skills then...

Re:I'm getting antsy just thinking about this... (3, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580103)

The only thing worse is being confined to a rock with 6 billion other people for the rest of your life.

This reminds me... (1)

Bilby Baggins (1107981) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579513)

of a certain [imdb.com] couple [imdb.com] of movies that deal with a similar-ish thing.

We also know how insane [penguincentral.com] even scientists and researchers get during a several-month physical isolation from the rest of the world.

I'm hoping that Red Mars [amazon.com] was required reading before they designed this kind of an experiment... I would assume that a similar level of precise requirements are being put into place here, as were found in that book.


Geek power unite! We've already been shown how to colonize space... just read the extensive manuals published by Issac Asimov, James Blish, and Robert A. Henlien!

I would volunteer, except (-1, Flamebait)

jeroen94704 (542819) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579621)

I would volunteer, except there's no way I am going to be in confined quarters with 4 rude, psychopathic, depressed, suicidal Russian alcoholics for 17 months! Think I'm prejudiced? Go ahead, visit Russia some time and prove me wrong.

Been there, done that... (5, Interesting)

dargaud (518470) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579675)

Seriously ! I spent a year with 12 other people in the middle of Antarctica in 2005 [gdargaud.net] and we were being followed by shrinks of the ESA. There's a big difference between a winterover and the proposed experiment: the first has a purpose while the second has not. I mean the only purpose here is to stay in a can. At least when you go to Mars or to Antarctica you have a job to perform and important things to do (science and ensuring your survival because there's no way out). Here you'll have people crack down after a few weeks from a sense of uselessness. I would sign up for another winterover or a Mars mission no questions asked. I wouldn't get canned like this for a heap of gold and an all you can download porn access.

Only 17 months (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 6 years ago | (#19579935)

Why haven't we already been to Mars then? It was my understanding it would takes years just to go one way. If we can make it there and back in 17 months that is doable with current technology. No need for cryogenics etc. There have been several people on the ISS for longer periods of time. So the human body can take it.

Re:Only 17 months (1)

SirBruce (679714) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580253)

The main reason we sent a manned mission to Mars is money, but there are other obstacles as well. We don't have a vehicle capable of launching a large enough ship with all the needed supplies to Mars, nor a lander to get us to the Martian surface and then take off again. While you're right that we've had people on the ISS and other space stations for long periods of time, the weakness they suffer from bone and muscle loss makes it difficult for them to re-adjust to gravity. We don't know yet how production the astronauts could be in Martian gravity after so long in weightlessness.

It gets worse. We don't have spacesuits for handling the martian surface, either, and the radiation astronauts would experience is higher than recommended even with a shielded settlement. And the other big difference from the ISS is no way to escape in case of trouble... if the ISS gets hit, they can come home on a Soyuz, but if the Mars spacecraft gets hit en-route or coming back, they're dead.

Anyway, many proposals have been made for travelling to Mars and back relatively safely with current technology. But the time and effort to perform such a mission is still beyond what governments are willing to do right now.

Mars Bars? (1)

StarReaver (1070668) | more than 6 years ago | (#19580291)

I didn't realize it was so hard to make a trip to get a Mars Bar. I just go to the convenience store, pick one up off the shelf, then go to the register and pay my 79 cents. Then I eat it. What's so difficult about getting a Mars?
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