Report: Russia's Mock Mars Mission to Cost $15 Million

Crew Selected for Mock Mars Mission
This view, released by Russia's Federal Space Agency, reveals the living quarters of the planned Mars500 simulated mission to Mars. (Image credit: Federal Space Agency.)

Anexperiment to simulate the stresses of a manned mission to Mars on humans couldcost more than $15 million, according to Russian wire reports.

Theestimate comes after a two-week test run using a mock-Mars habitat built at theMoscow Institute of Biomedical Problems for the Russian Academy of Sciences,the country's Interfax News Agency reported Sunday. The habitat servesas the core of Russia's "Mars500" long-durationspaceflight experiment to begin in late 2008 or early 2009.

"Thisincludes the modernization of the existing equipment, remuneration toparticipants in the experiment and other expenditures," Interfaxquoted Viktor Baranov, Mars500 supervisor and first deputy director at theinstitute, as saying. "If there are additional expenditures, the totalcost of the project will grow."

Russia'sMars500 project is expected to seal six people in a series of furnished metaltubes for up to 520 days, the length of time required for a crewed expeditionto Mars and back. The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with Russia on theproject and launched its own search for Mars-minded volunteerslast year.

"Wehave an agreement with the ESA that remuneration paid to Russian and Europeanparticipants should be the same," Baranov told Interfax, adding thatqualified volunteers would be eligible for 50,000 Euros (1.8 million Rubles orUS$73,467) for their time sequestered.

The four-modulemock Mars habitat contains about 1,250 square feet (116 square meters) ofliving space, or about the equivalent of a two-story house.

It is splitinto separate medical and living modules, a descent module for landing on Marsand a storage room, ESA officials have said. The long-duration experiment isexpected to simulate the 40-minute delay in communications between Earth andMars, feature mock explorations of the martian surface and recreate the view ofEarth dwindling away into space as the "spacecraft" heads toward thered planet, they added.  

Russian researchers rana 14-day test run in November to seek out any pitfalls with their current design,which allowed project managers to set the new cost estimate, Baranov told Interfax.

Last June, theESA announced a call for 12 volunteers to join its portion of the Mars500project, though eligible applicants must pass psychological and stress tests tobe considered. The applicants would be split into three teams, each with fourpeople, to serve on two, 105-day test runs in the Mars habitat and the final520-day expedition, ESA officials have said.

Russia'sInterfax NewsAgency contributed to this report.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.