Volunteers Sought for Simulated Mars Mission
A schematic of the 2,150-square-foot facility where volunteers will carry out a simulated mission to Mars. "Module 1" is the medical module, "Module 2" is the living quarters, "Module 3" is the Mars landing module and "Module 4" is the storage module.
Credit: ESA/Mars500

Space enthusiasts interested in tagging along on a 520-day roundtrip journey to Mars?a simulated one, that is?should apply now.

The European Space Agency is calling for volunteers to participate in ?Mars500,? a nearly two-year-long simulation of a journey to the Red Planet, the organization announced in a recent statement. The goal of the experiment is to prepare "for future human exploration missions to Mars.?

?We are currently looking for volunteers to take part in a 520-day simulated Mars mission,? according to an ESA statement released Tuesday. ?To go to Mars is still a dream and one of the last gigantic challenges.?

During the simulation, men and women ?Martianauts,? as you might call them, will watch Earth disappear into the blackness of space as they munch on the same kinds of food available on the International Space Station. ESA will even attempt to simulate the 40-minute time delay for radio signals to travel from the craft to Earth and back, as the volunteers work and live in extremely isolated conditions.

Once the group "arrives," about half-way through the simulation, they will explore the faux surface of Mars, the statement said. The entire experiment is expected to be carried out in a 2,150-square-foot facility in Moscow?about the floor space of a two-story house.

The ESA plans to ramp up to the long simulation with two 105-day studies starting in mid-2008, for which they also seek volunteers. The 520-day simulation would follow in late 2008 or early 2009, according to the statement.

Four volunteers will be selected for each of the missions. An application is available at the ESA?s Mars500 Web site. The nine-page application asks candidates about fluency in Russian, the amount of beer and wine he or she regularly drinks and, perhaps most important, their strengths and weaknesses of personality.

What?s the best way to increase your chances of making the cut?

?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,? according to the statement.

Though it's not clear whether NASA's Mars plans will ever be carried out, the agency was directed by President Bush in 2004 to aim for putting humans on Mars after returning astronauts to the moon by 2020.