Mars mission simulator: six men to spend 1.5 years in a bubble

No, it's not the next big reality TV show (though it sounds like it could be): six researchers are going to spend a whopping 520 days inside Mars500, a Russian-built, facility-sized simulator that approximates the enormous effort a trip to Mars would entail. The simulator is made up of three main segments, with an area that represents the surface of the planet, space for a Mars lander, and the interior of the "spaceship" that would have taken the team from Earth.

During the 520-day mission — which will include a 250-day journey to Mars, a 30-day period exploring the planet, and 240-days to travel back — the crew of six will have to overcome communication failures, being forced to ration food, and deal with feelings of isolation and separation in general.

Despite how it may sound, the goal of Mars500 isn't to torture six poor researchers. It's a study to identify the rigors that go along with a manned deep-space mission and the problems — both technical and mental — that may arise. The facility has already hosted two previous missions: a short, 14-day mission and a longer 105-day stretch, which wrapped up last year (the latter of which involved two ESA astronauts and four cosmonauts).

520 days is the longest space mission yet, even if it is in a simulator. At that length of time, it's over triple the six months an astronaut will, at most, spend on the International Space Station. Scroll down below to see the kind of bedroom the Mars500 crew members can expect.

Mars500, via Technology Review