On June 3, 2010, the third stage of the Mars-500 Project kicked into gear at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, Russia, where six volunteers from four different countries would spend their next 520-days inside a locked experiment facility simulating a long enduring trip to Mars.
The Mars-500 project is a ground-based experiment simulating manned flight to Mars. The main purpose of the experiment is to evaluate how the long isolation, especially the 20-minutes delayed communication with the outside world, affects the state of health and working capability of the crews.
The project has three stages. The first, 15-day stage took place in 2007 and was only designed to test out the facility. The second, 105-day stage happened in 2009 with 6 volunteers living in the isolated living complex. Currently in progress is the third stage, and another 6 volunteers will actually simulate a complete 520-day mission to Mars -- yes, that's how long the round-trip takes.
The 6 volunteers (professional astronauts, scientists, and engineers) will spend the entire duration of the experiment in a sealed facility with no windows and a '20-minute, one-way time-delay in communications to mirror the real lag in sending messages over the vast distance between Mars and Earth. It's almost like serving an 18-month jail term, but only worse, because they won't ever see the sun and have to live off canned food. They will also be under constant supervision and will be going through many scientific tests each day.
I have always been a big fan of space exploration. Call me Chicken Little if you wish, but with enough nuclear bombs that can blow up our planet over 300 times with only the push of a button, and with so many maniacs in this world, we've got to spread the seeds for human kind before the dooms day, before we wipe out ourselves completely from this universe. Therefore, great shout outs to these 6 volunteers who are willing to make the sacrifice for the benefit of the entire human race (think of all the World Cup games they are going to miss!!). I wish them a very productive "journey" and the greatest success! If I ever get locked up for 18 months, the entire book of Smiling Proud Wanderer would have been translated. LOL!
In order to successfully establish human outposts (or colonies) on another planet, it is essential to have intelligent worker robots working alongside human crews. Although we already have several robots roaming on top of the Martian surface, they are mainly for scientific exploration. What we really need are robots that can work as a team building/assembling equipments and living complexes. Some of them can be sent to Mars before the humans to get things started. Because of the long distance and long communication lag, they would have to be quite capable of autonomous operations, probably at some basic level tasks. Then more robots would go along with the human crews. These robots don't have to be fully autonomous, but will need to be able to interact with human well and take directions/supervisions from human operators efficiently/effectively. Robots have great advantages over human for these kind of space exploration because they don't need to eat, breathe, be entertained, and will never need a psychiatrist during such long space trips.
Picture of the Day:
The South African players dancing on the sideline in celebration of their goal against Mexico in the 2010 World Cup. It is so wonderful that the host nation gets to score the first goal of the tournament! Go Africans!