First men “on Mars” return to Earth

Six men have “returned to earth” after spending 18 months on a simulated mission to Mars. Meanwhile the latest spacecraft to make the journey for real has arrived at Cape Canaveral.

As we noted at the half-way stage, the Mars500 project featured six men spending 520 days in a mock-up spacecraft in Russia, matching the time a real return journey and mission would take. Three of the crew donned spacesuits and spent 10 days making journeys outside the craft into a darkened room full of sand designed to simulate the Mars surface.

The aim of the experiment was to learn more about the physical and psychological effects of the isolation from the real world, along with having to share a space with the same five people for well over a year. It also tested tactics for choosing equipment to make the journey bearable. As well as having specially designed gym equipment, the crew had a Nintendo Wii and Guitar Hero, along with a mini-greenhouse for growing fresh vegetables.

The men were taken into quarantine after “landing” but initials tests suggest all are in good health.

The BBC notes there are discussions to carry out similar tests on the International Space Station, such as introducing communication delays of 20 or more minutes to simulate the effects of being closer to Mars than Earth, or restricting crew members to particular areas of the station to simulate the even closer confinement of a Mars shuttle.

There’s no immediate prospect of a manned mission to Mars as, even if the duration of the journey was manageable, there’s currently no way to be certain of protecting a crew from cosmic radiation. However, the unimaginatively named “NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory” rover vehicle is only a few weeks away from beginning a trip to the planet where it will spend one Martian year (687 days on Earth). Its mission is to explore a crater with a 3-mile-high mountain.


10 Responses to First men “on Mars” return to Earth

    • They also were only exposed for part of the way there – the Earth's Magneto Sphere (Earth's Magnetic field) extends for part of the way, and nearly all of it if the moon is behind the earth (thank to solar wind dragging it out)
      One of the method's they're experimenting with is to put the crew's water in a tank that completely surrounds the craft – Water is really good at blocking radiation, the trick is that if has to be distilled, or any particles in it may become irradiated and toxic if consumed.
      Another method is by the craft generating it's own magnetic field – but that would only be good for background radiation – if there was a flare, there would be no way they could supply it with enough power to protect them (even Earth's magnetic field fluctuates during a flare).

  1. They didn't, the trip to the moon is only around a three day trip, and the Apollo astronauts were bombarded the whole way there. Some even reported seeing burst of light, from the cosmic radiation hitting their optic nerve.

  2. I'm sorry but am I the only one who can't get past this part.. "the crew had a Nintendo Wii and Guitar Hero" really?? That's awful! I didn't realize anyone still actually used those. Give them an XBOX360 or at least a PS3…just saying…

    • Well it's for the gym. They probably got that for the easy fitness games. The Wii is not "1:1" move reproduction like PSMove so it playable while floating around. It really only is so their muscles don't become useless after a few weeks. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are still awesome and kinda classics even today too imo.

  3. there's a video from them that shows various stuff like where they were staying and checks in w/ them as time goes on, etc.

    description from the video: "ESA's Mars500 crewmembers Diego Urbina and Romain Charles recorded 15 video diaries from all phases of their simulated mission to Mars, plus hundreds of photos and other video clips. Most of these are available on ESA's Mars500 website (, but here is a compilation of their YouTube videos.
    Relive this great adventure with Romain and Diego!"

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