Mars500 Crew Prepares to Walk on Red Planet


After more than eight months ‘flying’ to the Red Planet, the isolated Mars500 crew will finally take their first steps onto a mock-Mars surface on 14 February.

Mars500 is the most realistic spaceflight simulation possible without leaving the ground: its six volunteers are locked inside a sealed nest of modules at Moscow’s Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP) for a total of 520 days, the time it would take to fly to Mars and back.

The programme’s emphasis on realism extends to the mission’s first Marswalk – stepping from a mock lander into a simulated martian environment, overseen from Russia’s real-life Mission Control Centre (TsUP) in the Moscow suburbs, just as a real spacewalk would be.

Further adding to the realism, spacesuited crewmen and controllers alike will be working around a 20-minute communications delay – the time it takes radio signals to travel between Mars and Earth.

The first footsteps are scheduled to take place around 13:00 Moscow time (11:00 CET).

Preparations for this event will begin on 1 February, when the Mars500 ‘spacecraft’ docks with a Mars lander already in orbit. Half the crew will then transfer to the lander – Russian commander Alexey Sitev, Europe’s Diego Urbina and China’s Wang Yue – to prepare for Mars landing on 12 February. The 14 February Marswalk is the first of three to take place during the ten-day stay.