Posted December. 17, 2008 08:36,
A group of astronauts will begin training in Moscow next month in preparation for a manned mission to Mars.
Global media say four astronaut candidates from Europe will start official training in the Russian capital next month after being selected last week by the European Space Agency.
Dubbed Mars 500, the project will be jointly implemented by the agency and Russias Institute for Biomedical Problems. The four trainees will be joined by another four Russians who volunteered for the mission.
Recruited from among 5,680 European applicants, the four trainees are healthy men between the ages of 28 and 40 with careers ranging from aircraft pilot to military engineer. The four comprise three Frenchmen and one German, and will undergo a drill on living in a sealed space from March after classroom training next month.
The mission will spend an estimated 520 days going to and from Mars -- 250 days to go to Mars, 240 days to return, and 30 days for a scientific mission on the Red Planet.
The biggest question is if humans can survive 17 months in a sealed space.
Two of the astronaut hopefuls recruited in Europe will live in a sealed cabin designed by Russia for 105 days, together with the four Russian astronauts. Another two will be on standby as backups.
The trainees will carry out shuttle operations, learn methods to cope with emergencies, and conduct scientific experiments in the sealed cabin floored with wooden panels from the floor to the ceiling. All communication channels with the outside will remain shut off except one wireless communication line in service to offer an environment akin to the real situation in space.
During breaks, the astronaut candidates will cultivate plants in a small artificial greenhouse inside the cabin or read books.
It will take 20 minutes for communication signals sent by astronauts upon landing on Mars to reach Earth. In consideration of this situation, the astronauts will receive replies from the space center to their messages 40 minutes after they transmit signals in the drill. During training, all astronauts must cut off contact with everyone for three years, including family.
Chances are high that the trainees participating in the drill will be selected for the first manned mission to Mars, but there is no guarantee that they will go. Experts say more than 10 years is likely needed before humans send a manned space shuttle to Mars.