2 May 2012, 16:03

Russia to repeat Mars-500 experiment at ISS

Russia to repeat Mars-500 experiment at ISS

It will be expedient to repeat the Mars-500 experiment that simulates a manned flight to the Red Planet on board the International Space Station where conditions are closer to a real expedition, says the head of the Russian Space Agency, Vladimir Popovkin.

It will be expedient to repeat the Mars-500 experiment that simulates a manned flight to the Red Planet on board the International Space Station where conditions are closer to a real expedition, says the head of the Russian Space Agency, Vladimir Popovkin.

The 520-day programme of the Mars-500 experiment ended at the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems on the 4th of November. The six-man crew – 3 Russians, a French, an Italian and a Chinese, spent the time in a mock space craft in complete isolation from the rest of the world. Experts highly assess the results of the experiment, and information gathered during the experiment will be the basis for planning future interplanetary flights.

Nevertheless, in a real flight, people will have to face deadly factors in space, including radiation and zero gravity. Radiation damages DNA and eye’s lenses and retina and this may led to making fatal mistakes in flight control. Zero gravity is also an important factor causing a loss of calcium that weakens the cosmonaut’s bones. The results of such an experiment conducted on board the ISS will be more reliable. The possibility of conducting the experiment on board the ISS will largely depend on the position of the Russian Space Agency, says director of the project Boris Morukov.

“Proposals have been formulated and sent to other partners. A definite programme has been worked out starting from training a crew. We are ready to accept any option and work alone and do everything ourselves. If we can organize international cooperation, it will be excellent, Boris Morukov said.

It will be ideal to repeat the experiment on board a new Russia module that will be sent to the ISS in the coming years. The new module can be developed to meet the demands of the experiment although there will be complications, says Boris Morukov.

“One problem is linked with the establishment of communication because it will be different for the crew involved in the experiment and others on board the ISS. Moreover, all cosmonauts on board the ISS should take part in servicing the station. There is a need to change the mission control scheme by allowing the station to do this itself without the Earth’s guidance,” Boris Morukov added.

This is a technically complicated project, says analyst of the “Novosti Kosmonautiki” magazine Igor Lisov.

“There is a need to separate a part of the ISS and deploy an independent crew there and allow them to work autonomously. This part should have an independent life support system. This can be organized but the station will be deprived of stand-by systems. At present, in case of a failure on board the American segment Americans use our systems and vice versa,” Igor Lisov said.

An increase in the duration of the flight to up to 500 days is not a cause for worry because a Russian, Valery Polyakov spent 437 days in space and his health is normal. The 6-man crew of the station can be divided into two equal groups. Three will work according to a standard programme and the others will carry out the experiment.

According to the director of the Institute of the Medical and Biological Problems, Igor Ushakov, Russia’s ISS partners understand the importance of imitating a flight to Mars on board the station. Hopefully, such experiments will be conducted before the operating life of the ISS ends in 2020.     

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