"It is of paramount importance to understand the psychological and physiological effects of long-duration confinement, to be able to prepare the crews in the best way possible, and to learn about important aspects of the vehicle design. To contribute to their psychological well-being and long-term performance, we need to learn how to support the crew with optimum nutrition, artificial light, appropriate medical countermeasures, and also planned and off-nominal task management."
The 105-day study precedes a full simulation of a mission to Mars, due to start late in 2009. This will see another six-member crew sealed in the same chamber to experience a complete 520-day Mars mission simulation.
Both studies are part of the Mars500 program conducted by ESA and the Russian IBMP, with Roscosmos funding. ESA's Directorate of Human Spaceflight is undertaking Mars500 within its European Program for Life and Physical Sciences (ELIPS) to prepare for future missions to the Moon and Mars.
"Mars500 is the proof that we are preparing for the future," said Simonetta di Pippo, ESA's director of Human Spaceflight.
"The International Space Station is about to reach full operational capability with a crew of six, and the international partners are considering how to maximize the investment made in the station by working towards a possible extension of its lifetime. In parallel, we are intensifying our activities in preparation for the next steps in human spaceflight and exploration as part of the Global Exploration Strategy together with the space agencies worldwide who endorsed it. Mars500 is an important part of this global endeavor as it provides us with the knowledge of how to keep a small crew psychologically and physiologically healthy and, ultimately, to succeed in the big challenge to bring humankind to Mars and safely back to Earth."
Follow the crew throughout their simulated mission, including regular diary updates from the ESA participants, on the ESA website.