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The crew of the Mars500 simulated mission to the Red Planet has reached a key milestone. Six specially selected individuals began a 520-day stay inside a sealed-up capsule at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in Moscow, Russia, for a historic experiment. The group has completed the first part of their training and two of them will now embark on mastering the art of the Mars walk.

They have already spent eight months locked in a series of steel tubes which don’t have any windows. This is for stimulating their actual living conditions in the spacecraft and later on the surface of the Red Planet. They would train their walking till next week and the next eight months would be locked up in the “spacecraft.

Their trip to Mars and back would take 520 days – an outward journey of 250 days, a 30 day ‘stay’ on the surface of the Red Planet and a 240 day return journey. It might take longer as this is just an estimate. Hence the astronauts must be trained to stay in isolation and, on arriving the planet will be busy with their assigned scientific experiments.

This six man mission began in June last year at a research centre in Moscow. The experiment is a joint venture between Russian science Institute and the European Space Agency (ESA), is the longest ever space simulation experiment. After spending eight months in the claustrophobic wood-panelled capsule, three of the Mars500 came out for the first time, transferring to a landing module for the ‘touchdown’ on Mars. After the long period of reduced physical activity and isolation, researchers will look at how they cope in their spacesuits, each weighs 32 kilos. Only a few people are allowed near the research centre for fear of contaminating the conditions of the experiment. Coordinators have made it as realistic as possible with their great length of view. Since last summer, start of the experiment there has been bizarre aimed to finding out more about the physical and psychological of long distance space journey.

Voyage to Mars is on the space exploration agenda of several countries, including the U.S. In outlining his vision for the future of NASA in April, President Obama said: “By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow.”

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