After more than 18 months in a windowless isolation complex, with only one another for company, six ‘astronauts’ are set to end their fake mission to Mars on Friday afternoon. And while they didn’t travel anywhere during their ‘voyage’, their experiences should help the European Space Agency (ESA) gain a better understanding of how astronauts would cope during a real mission to Mars.
The Mars500 project cost $10m and featured three Russians, two Europeans and one Chinese man. Once the hatch is opened on Friday, the men will go straight to hospital and will spend three days in quarantine before facing the media. Throughout their 500 day ordeal, they have been monitored so that ESA experts can keep an eye on their physical and psychological reactions to being cooped up for so long.
The experiment wasn’t entirely uneventful. Halfway through, a fake landing on the Martian surface was staged. And the crew were subjected to various unexpected events, including simulated emergencies, a two-day communications blackout, a fire and a power cut. There were reportedly no serious arguments between the astronauts during the experiment.