Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Go to Mars without leaving home

I particularly like that on the list of qualities required of candidates volunteering to spend 500 days on a simulated trip to Mars, under the heading "Requirements for investigators-volunteers" you are requested to list your "bad habits". Is this a call for candour, or are the organisers actually hoping to find some intolerable person to relieve the boredom? It would be fun to think that telling them you snore or seldom wash might actually be as good a qualification as a degree in astrophysics. After all, if astronauts really are to go to Mars and spend 500 days away from Earth in a tiny tin can of a space ship, they are going to have to learn the patience of saints, unless of course this is really a secret reality TV show. In fact, this is a very serious attempt to figure out how people will cope on such an arduous trip. Six candidates will spend at least 520 days (perhaps 700) cooped up on the Mars-500 mission. Communications with the outside world will even be time delayed to simulate the increasing lag as the "ship" travels away from the Earth. So far, over 120 people from 21 countries including Argentina, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Ukraine have applied for the jobs. If you fancy signing up, you can visit the official site here.