Six researchers have shown they can survive the isolation and the cramped quarters that would be asked of any person attempting the long trip to Mars and back.
The simulation is prep for a real trip to Mars someday
The six men emerged pale but smiling. They had just endured the longest isolation experiment in the history of space travel, 520 days locked in windowless, cramped cells to simulate a journey to Mars and back.
French engineer Romain Charles, Russian surgeon Sukhrob Kamolov, Russian engineer and mission commander Aleksei Sityev, Russian physiologist Aleksandr Somlyeevsky, Italian-Colombian engineer Diego Urbina and Chinese aerospace instructor Wang Yue entered the mock spaceship at a Moscow research institute on June 3, 2010.
The crew spent almost a year and a half in the mock spaceship
Close relatives and mission controllers greeted the men with applause as they exited their simulated spaceship.
"It's really, really great to see you all again, rather heartwarming," said Diego-Urbina, the Italian-Colombian participant. "On this mission we've achieved the longest isolation ever so that humankind can go to a distant but reachable planet."
Space officials say technology is still decades away from allowing for a safe manned mission to Mars. Aleksei Krasnov, the head of Russia's piloted space vehicle program, said the simulation had provided information that would be critical to making an actual trip to Mars successful.
The Mars 500 experiment cost $15 million (10.9 million euros) and was funded mainly by Russia, the European Space Agency and Germany.
Author: Holly Fox (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer
A European cargo vessel has set off for the last such mission carrying supplies to the International Space Station. German astronaut Alexander Gerst can look forward to some home cooking, and some coffee, in the payload.
Until recently, the deadly Ebola epidemic in West Africa was far away from Germany. Now, infected patients may come to Hamburg for treatment. But specialists are prepared and hope to gain new insights into the virus.
For marine biologist Barbara Gratzer, the black-blotched stingray is one of the most graceful creatures of the Maldives.
Giant panda bears are iconic for conservation efforts, but only 1,600 of them are left in the wild. Still, according to a new study, breeding programs in China have been mostly successful.