Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Last Call, Mission to Mars

Last Thursday's Washington Post had an interesting article detailing the European Space Agency's (ESA) search for 12 volunteers to undertake a simulated mission to Mars (four volunteers for each of three simulations). The simulations would last up to 520 days in "extreme isolation and confinement" however, without simulated weightlessness. Requirements include:

  • Must be a citizen of one of 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Britain and Canada (Sucks to be you US SCi-Fi geeks!)
  • 25-50 years old and in good health
  • Height up to 185 cm (about 6 ft)
  • "Highly motivated"
  • Speak both English and Russian
  • Have work experience in one of several scientific fields, including: medicine, biology, computer engineering or mechanical engineering
  • Non-smoker

Selection procedure is to be similar to that of ESA astronauts, although with greater emphasis on psychological factors and stress resistance than on physical fitness. If your interested then visit the "Call for Candidates" for a PDF Application.

A round trip to Mars (travel and exploration time) should take around two years; communication by radio around 40 minutes a pop. Not too bad for our future scientists, but one can't help but consider if studies like these will eventually lead to studies on the psychological impact of "Generation Ships". For a good dialogue on the changes in an isolated society during lengthy space missions, I recommend Ursula LeGuin's "Birthday of the World and Other Stories". One of the stories, "Paradises Lost" explores the conventions of how long will our descendents care about what we cared about.


  1. I heard a news story that the U.S. is going to test a group of six people or so for the study and observation of human isolation during a Mars mission, by having them live in the same structure, with all their needs ands supplies, no outside news, or other contact with the rest of the world, for something like a year.

  2. Oooo. I would love to get a link for that. I haven't heard anything from the cash strapped NASA. It seems like such an ambitious undertaking I was't surprised that the ESA was heading it.

  3. The best sci-fi take on human isolation was the "Twilight Zone" episode called "Where is Everybody". Ancillary themes were explored on other episodes.