Although radiation, micro-gravity and tiny organisms can spell havoc for future explorers of the red planet, probably one of the biggest threats towards visiting Mars is “cabin fever.”

In order to find ways to thwart this issue, scientists are asking for volunteers to willingly isolate themselves with strangers in order to simulate a journey towards Mars.

(Physorg.com) The European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday called for applications for one of the most demanding human experiments in space history: a simulated trip to Mars in which six “astronauts” will spend 17 months in an isolation tank on Earth.

Their spaceship will comprise a series of interlocked modules in an research institute in Moscow, and once the doors are closed tight, the volunteers will be cut off from all contact with the outside world except by a delayed radio link.

They will face simulated emergencies, daily work routines and experiments, as well as boredom and, no doubt, personal friction from confinement in just 550 cubic metres (19,250 cubic feet), the equivalent of nine truck containers.

Communications with the simulated mission control and loved-ones will take up to 40 minutes, the time that a radio signal takes to cross the void between Earth and a spaceship on Mars. Food will comprise mainly the packaged stuff of the kind eaten aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The psychological health of a crew can either make or break a mission. Although there have been few incidents (if any) aboard the ISS, simply being isolated from ones family, friends and country can literally push some people over to the breaking point.

As far as boredom goes, perhaps the ESA should consider shipping a few popular board games (like chess, monopoly or Chinese checkers) as they would not only help keep their mind off other things (like home), but help foster unity amongst the crew.

Share on Tumblr