Following the 105-day simulated mission that ended this summer, the European Space Agency is looking for volunteers to spend 520 days in isolation, simulating a Mars mission. So what could possibly go wrong when you never leave the ground?
The Mars-500 pseudomission will take place next year at the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow. The 520 days is meant to copy the length of an actual Mars mission, including the journey to and from the planet and a 30-day stay on the surface. The ESA is currently seeking six volunteers (English and Russian speakers ages 20-50 in good health with specific science backgrounds) to simulate the less fun parts of being an astronaut. Before you send in your application, New Scientist points out some possible downsides:
Boredom: The major complaint from participants in this year's 105-day mission of isolation was severe boredom. Maybe the ESA could let you take a Kindle on board, or you and your fellow fake astronauts could play a long-running RPG. But be prepared to go pretty stir-crazy.
Hating Your Podmates: In 1982 two Soyuz cosmonauts, Valentin Vitalyevich Lebedev and Anatoli Berezovoi, hated each other so much that they spent their 211-day mission in almost complete silence. 520 days is more than enough time to start hating the way someone else mouth breathes or chews their food.
Sexual Harassment: During a simulated space station mission in 2000, a Russian man tried to forcibly kiss one of the women on board. Eventually, the Russian "cosmonauts" had to be separated from the rest of the crew.
Not Actually Accomplishing Anything: Peter Suedfeld of the University of British Columbia wrote a study that suggests these faux missions aren't ideal for simulating actual mission conditions. He suggests that it would be better to study exploratory missions on Earth, such as research expeditions in Antarctica.
What's the point of a fake 500-day Mars mission? [New Scientist]