Friday, June 22, 2007

The Perfect Job For Manitoba Metis Federation Board Members!

For Up To 700 Days, Six Test Subjects Will Simulate A Cramped Mission To Mars
No Space Left To Hide

By Richard Ingham (in Paris)
The National Post
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Page A3

Wanted: Astronauts to spend almost two years on a simulated trip to Mars. For up to 700 days, the six men and women will share the work and the heroics, battling emergencies and equipment glitches, along with coping with the tedium and the irritating habits of their fellow travellers, all while cooped up in a mock-up Martian spaceship in a research lab in Moscow.

"The biggest risk is not physical, it's psychological, it's being confronted by yourself, of discovering who you are," said French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haignere, who spent 186 days on the Russian orbital spaceship Mir in 1993.

The initial "trip" will last 520 days - the minimum estimated time it would take to visit the Red Planet and return - but organizers plan to extend the mission to 700 days if the "astronauts" pass this first milestone successfully.

It all goes well, the big experiment will start in late 2008, after one or possibly two 105-day simulations to fine-tune work routines and emergency scenarios.

The cosmos is a deeply hostile place for humans, but the risk multiplies many times when it comes to long-term trips.

Voyages into deep space will expose the astronauts to cosmic radiation that can slice through DNA with the ease of a Cordon Bleu-trained chef chopping carrots. Muscles become flaccid in the absence of gravity and bones lose their density. And that doesn't take into acount other hazards such as life-support failure, comunications breakdown or an asteroid strike.

But these may be well out-stripped by the challenge of keeping focused and sane.

The six test subjects will be confined to five interconnected modules - a common living area, individual bedrooms, a bathroom, command module and a fitness room, taking up the same space as nine 60-cubic-metre truck containers.

Earlier experiments have shown that separate bedrooms, preferably with locks on the door are essential.

In 1998-99, seven male astronauts - mainly Russian but also Japanese and Austrian - and one female Canadian astronaut, Dr. Judith Lapierre, spent 110 days aboard a replica of the Mir space station. The experiment attracted international attention as fist-fights broke out between the Russians, leading the Japanese to hide all the knives on board. In addition, the Russian commander forcibly French-kissed Dr. Lapierre.

Russian officials said such behaviour was normal for Russians, and the others should put up with it or leave. They were also told Russian culture obliged them not to complain pubicly.

Dr. Lapierre stuck with the mission but insisted on haveing a lock fitted on her door.

In the latest experiment, no contact will be allowed with the outside world except via the fake mission control. Communications, by radio and e-mail, will be delayed by up to 40 minutes, replicating the time it would take for messages to cross the 56 million kilometres between Earth and Mars.

Food will be meal packets of the kind eaten on the International Space Station supplemented by treats on special days. Alcohol and smoking are out.

For 250 days, the six-member crew will simulate the outward trip to Mars. Then, for 30 days, three of them will be cloistered in part of the ship to simulate the descent to Mars and the operations there. The trio then "return" to dock with the mother ship for the 240-day trip home.

The door of the ship will remain closed, and no one will be allowed to intervene or leave except in an "absolute, severe emergency," such as a fire, said Dr. Marc Heppener of the science and application division oat the European Space Agency (ESA).

The crew will even be expected to deal with some surgical emergencies, such as appendicitis.

Viktor Baranov of Russia's Institute for Biomedical Problems, shich is carrying out the simulation, said he has had 150 applications. At the Paris Air Show this week, the ESA announced it was calling for applications from citizens of European Union member states.

In all, 12 volunteers are needed to complete the various test projects. They must be aged 25-50 and be able to speak Russian and English fluently.

Engineers and biologists will be preferred and a doctor is also being sought.

Some experts think a single-sex crew may operate more effectively because there is no risk of sexual rivalry if a couple happen to pair up, while others think the presence of the opposite sex provides a calming factor and a valuable different perspective on problems.

Nor is there any agreement about what would be a good number - five men to one woman (or the reverse) could lead to sexual rivalry, and three-three may lead to gender tribalism pitting men and women.

"Four and two might be appropriate," Dr. Heppener said.

Applicants will also be subjected to a barrage of psychological profiling and other tests.

"You must be a team player but also able to work by yourself," said Dr. Heppener, acknowledging this all amounts to a mixture as exceptional as a trip to Mars itself.

Application forms can be found at www.spaceflight.esa./int/callforcandidates.

Agence France-Presse, with files from news services

"3-2-1- 0 ..... We Have Lift-Off!"
(MMF Directors Blast Off For Mars - Bye, Bye For You!)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Clare
Good idea I think that they

would make good astronaut,s
I heard the complete board
ocupied space in schoolha ha

1:53 PM  

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