Dec 11, 2008 | 5
A future manned trip to Mars would subject astronauts to any number of unpredictable hazards—an unprecedentedly complex launch and journey, bombardment by cosmic radiation, and, if sci-fi movies are to be believed, harassment from potentially unfriendly locals. But there's one effect researchers hope to pin down before anybody gets near a launch pad: the physical and psychological effects of the confinement and isolation that such a long trip would engender.
A study beginning in March will subject six volunteers—four from Russia and two from other European nations—to 105 days of isolation at a Moscow facility as part of the Mars500 program. The subjects will eat, sleep and work in close quarters for the 15-week duration. Today the European Space Agency (ESA) presented its four potential participants, who were winnowed from a field of 5,600 applicants, according to an ESA press release. Two of them will be selected to enter the study and the two others to serve as alternates (to step up if either or both of the chosen drop out) after they all wrap up a two-month training course.
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