ESA is preparing for future human exploration missions to Mars. We are currently looking for volunteers to take part in a 520-day simulated Mars mission.
To go to Mars is still a dream and one of the last gigantic challenges. But one day some of us will be on precisely that journey to the Red Planet. A journey with no way out once the spaceship is on a direct path to Mars.
These men and women will have to take care of themselves for almost two years during the roundtrip. Their survival is in their own hands, relying on the work of thousands of engineers and scientists back on Earth, who made such a mission possible.
The crew will experience extreme isolation and confinement. They will lose sight of planet Earth. A radio contact will take 40 minutes to travel to us and then back to the space explorers.
A human mission to Mars is a bold vision for the time beyond the International Space Station. However, preparations have already started today. They are geared and committed to one goal: to send humans on an exploration mission to Mars, individuals who will live and work together in a spaceship for over 500 days.
In order to investigate the human factors of such a mission ESA has teamed up with the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) and will send a joint crew of six on a 520-day simulated mission to Mars.
The simulation follows the mission profile of a real Mars mission, including a exploration phase on the surface of Mars. Nutrition will be identical to that provided on board the International Space Station.
The simulations will take place here on Earth inside a special facility in Moscow. A precursor 105-day study is scheduled to start by mid-2008, possibly followed by another 105-day study, before the full 520-day study begins in late 2008 or early 2009.
ESA is looking for 12 volunteers who are ready to participate in the simulations and thereby help to support the preparations of the real thing: a mission to Mars. Four volunteers will be needed for each of the three simulations. The selection procedure is similar to that of ESA astronauts, although there will be more emphasis on psychological factors and stress resistance than on physical fitness.