Cosmonauts Prepare for Life on Mars, Loneliness

First the Russians bring back the KGB anti-man tactic known as a “honey trap,” now this: earlier today, six cosmonauts entered a sealed facility where they’ll spend the next 18 months with, save for email, no contact with the outside world. It’s called the Mars500 project, and it’s supposed to simulate a mission to Mars. Not so simulated: loneliness.

The Mars500 craft is based at Moscow’s Institute of Biomedical Problems (great name!). It has no windows and consists of a series of five interconnected steel canisters, with a total interior volume of less than 20,000 cubic feet. The cosmonauts will live and work in four of the canisters. The fifth is a mock-up of Mars and will be used for simulated “surface walks.”

Three of the cosmonauts are Russian, two are Euros, and the youngest guy, 26-year-old Wang Yue, hails from China. Scientists will study the effect their isolation has on their physiological and psychological health. “We expect Mars500 to have Earth applications, in understanding group dynamics connected to isolation and loneliness, for example,” one scientist on the project said. So, basically, it seems as though the project will mimic the bummer aspects of being in space—being away from friends and family, having to hang in close quarters with strangers from foreign lands—without the fun part of a space mission, say, actually being in space, experiencing weightlessness, etc. Fun times!

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