YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The World

Wanted: 12 fit for mission to 'space'

Volunteers will spend up to a year and a half in close confinement in a simulated trip to Mars.

June 22, 2007|From the Associated Press

PARIS — The European Space Agency is looking for 12 volunteers to spend up to 520 days in "extreme isolation and confinement" on a simulated mission to Mars.

The volunteers will study the "human factor" of a trip to the Red Planet -- "a journey with no way out once the spaceship is on a direct path to Mars," the ESA said.

The experiment will emphasize psychological factors, including stress resistance. The goal is to test how the volunteers hold up in nearly a year and a half of living with others in close confinement when communications with Earth can take 20 minutes each way.

The simulation is to take place in a series of connected modules, mimicking life in a spacecraft traveling to Mars and after it has landed. The routine includes scientific experiments.

Despite the rigorous conditions, more than 2,000 people have applied in two days, project manager Jennifer Ngo-Anh said Thursday.

Candidates must be citizens of one of 15 European countries or Canada, be highly motivated and speak English and Russian.

They also must be 25 to 50 years old and in good health, with work experience in one of several scientific fields, such as medicine, biology, computer engineering or mechanical engineering, the application says.

The space agency warned that this is no reality TV show, and only the "serious" need apply. The payoff is probably less lucrative too. Remuneration is "in line with international standards" for clinical studies, the organization said.

The Paris-based agency is working on the Mars500 project with the Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow. The simulated mission will be conducted there and include Russian participants chosen separately.

The mission doesn't include full-time weightlessness. The living quarters will include 30-square-foot rooms for each crew member, a kitchen-dining room, living room -- and one toilet. No shower is included, and water will be limited.

Food will be "predefined and carefully rationed," the ESA said. Smoking and drinking are prohibited.

Special training before the simulations will be as similar as possible to that given to astronauts, Ngo-Anh said.

Not all volunteers will have to take part in the final 520-day simulation, which will have a crew of six: four Russians and two Europeans or Canadians. But two pilot studies of about 100 days are to precede the big one. With two volunteers in each of the three projects, plus backups, a dozen are needed, the ESA said.

Los Angeles Times Articles