Mars500 Crew Prepares to Walk on Red Planet

ESA PROGRAM UPDATE

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.