To Mars and back – virtually

There will be no blast-off Thursday when six men set out on a record-breaking space mission. Why? Because they’ll never leave the parking lot. The ripped and ready crew of Mars500 will spend 520 days inside a sealed-up capsule in Moscow, outside the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Biomedical Problems.
That’s where they’ll complete the first simulated human mission to Mars, a test drive that will be influential in planning future trips to the red planet. “There’s never been a simulation that has lasted so long, that took place in something very similar to the actual future space capsule in which people will be going to Mars, we hope,” says Peter Suedfeld, professor emeritus of psychology of the University of British Columbia, who has worked with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. The historic experiment will test how the men operate in isolation, with limited company, a significant amount of stress and confinement.