Diego Urbina and Romain Charles from Europe, Sukhrob Kamolov, Alexey Sitev, Alexandr Smoleevskiy and Mikhail Sinelnikov from Russia and Wang Yue from China will live and work as the astronauts would in reality, also eating the same food and exercising in an identical manner as crew members onboard the International Space Station.
Their days will be divided up equally between work, leisure and rest time, and as well as an 18 month supply of food and equipment on board the ‘spacecraft’ they have taken films, books, games and musical instruments with which to entertain themselves.
The men will have to rapidly adjust both mentally and physically to being contained within a closed environment with restricted space, and a regime of daily exercise for up to 2 hours will be important to maintain physical condition. Unfortunately though they will only be able to shower once a week so a poor sense of smell would probably be a good thing!
The Mars 500 experiment will be excellent for simulating the living conditions, work routine and stresses of living as a small group in a confined space and should therefore give some valuable feedback and data. However, there are important factors that cannot be simulated in this way on Earth, such as the effects of long term exposure of astronauts to radiation and microgravity. It is imperative for the safety of crew members on any future long-term manned mission that we gain a better understanding of the physiological processes that lie behind such effects.