It is a year on Friday since six men were sealed inside a mock spaceship in Moscow to simulate a 520-day roundtrip to Mars.
The would-be astronauts – three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman, and an Italian – have lived and worked to a strict timetable since they clambered into a cramped capsule in a Moscow car park on June 3, 2010.
The European Space Agency (Esa) and Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems experiment, called Mars 500, is designed to test how humans can cope with the stress of a return trip to the Red Planet.
With only limited contact with the outside world and no access to natural light, the men have been undergoing regular medical and psychological checks to see just how well they were doing.
The crew, who spent 250 days working on maintenance and scientific experiments before a 30-day stint performing tasks on a simulated Martian surface, are currently on their “return trip” to Earth.
Cosmonaut Dr. Boris Morukov, who is steering the project from the “ground control,” says the men have been faring well.
“The participants of the project feel well,” Morukov said in a RIA Novosti interview. “An expert panel recently found the ‘Marsonauts’ fit to continue the flight.”
He said the experiment proves successful.
“The guys are working together, they are working well,” Morukov went on. “Most importantly, they are not getting any outside interference, we have ruled that out.”
“The crew is controlling the complex and support systems themselves. It can be said that they are carrying out the flight on their own.”
Morukov said the men were up to date with the latest Earth news.
“They have been following all the news, it is sent to them promptly. They are also informed about negative news.”
This is not the first time a long mission has been attempted. In 1999, an experiment in the same Moscow warehouse fell to pieces after a Russian team captain forced a kiss on a Canadian woman, and two Russian crewmembers had a bloody fistfight.
MOSCOW, June 3 (RIA Novosti)