I have to confess to being a little underwhelmed by the success of the Mars5000 mission that saw six men locked away in a couple of portacabins for a year and a half. Don’t get me wrong, there’s valuable science to come out of it all. Not least, the psychosocial aspects of six people cooped up together for that length of time; surely an important factor in understanding how to crew a genuine flight to the Red Planet.
No. There were basically a few things that were wrong with this ‘mission’ for me. First and foremost, it simply wasn’t a spectator sport. I didn’t spend much time looking for information on what was going on. If you want a potted history, the ‘highlights’ so-to-speak, here’s a 15 minute video Mars5000 in 15 minutes.
Of course the real trip to Mars, when it does eventually take place will hardly be more thrilling, but by way of compensation, there will be the real prosepct that some dreadful disaster will take place, plunging our heroes into the furnace of the sun or, more probable into the vast and unending coldness of space. Naturally no one will actually want this to take place, but you can’t deny that this spice is missing from an entirely ground-based mission. For the same reason, there’s surely a big gap between the stress levels that the space-faring crew would endure over and above these brave souls of Mars5000. If you are tens of millions of miles away from Earth without the least hope of rescue, that’s got to do something strange to your head. I’m not sure what coping strategies there are for that.
Another key deficiency of the mission was the oversufficiency of gravity. Now I haven’t spent any time in zero-G, but I’m pretty sure that 72 weeks of your piss and spittle floating away from you, your hair clippings clouding up a small cabin, your turds refusing to head neatly down into the u-bend, food not remaining neatly on your plate awaiting consumption and everything but everything having to be stowed away after each and every fricking use! That, would drive me absolutely stark-staring mad.
Well done to the crew! It must have been hard, but let’s not assume we know a great deal about cramming folk into small metal containers and firing them across the cosmos. 😉