Scientists begin 520-day Mars mission simulation

In this May 24, 2010 photo released by Moscow's Institute for Medical and Biological Problems and made available Wednesday, June 2, 2010, researchers test spacesuits on a simulated Mars surface during a training session at Moscow's Institute for Medical and Biological Problems. An international crew will launch a 520-day mission to simulate a flight to Mars on Thursday. (AP Photo/IBMP, Oleg Voloshin)

June 3, 2010 8:09:20 AM PDT
An international team of researchers in Russia on Thursday began a grueling simulation of a flight to Mars that will keep them locked in a cascade of windowless modules for 520 days -- the amount of time required for a journey to the Red Planet and back to Earth. While the experiment, conducted jointly by Russia, China and the European Space Agency, will not involve weightlessness, it will try to tackle some of the psychological challenges of a real flight to Mars -- particularly the stress, claustrophobia and fatigue that a real space crew would face during interplanetary travel.

The six-member, all-male crew -- consisting of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian-Colombian and a Chinese -- expressed confidence that their mission would be a success.

Diego Urbina, the Italian-Colombian member, said the mission would mean "accomplishing dreams about the future, doing something that no human has done before."