Isolation Experiment: One Small Step to Mars?

After a long leave of absence Future Hope is finally up and running again along with a much needed face lift.

Last week a 520 day isolation experiment involving six “voyagers” concluded.  The six volunteers, including three Russians, two Europeans, and one Chinese researcher, began their experiment on June 3rd of 2010 and left their isolation on November 4th of 2011.  I have very mixed feelings about this experiment.  In many ways it is quite underwhelming that this is the biggest space news that we’ve had for a while and that it is not tied to any actual planned mission to Mars.

Also it is frustrating that there were no Americans involved in this experiment.  Can America slip even further behind in world space exploration?  I didn’t think so, but at this point it  looks like the future of space travel may lie in some combination of private interests and other governments with the US one member among many.  This may be a good model, but I only hope that the US stays a major player in the future of space exploration and doesn’t take a further back seat to Russia, Europe, and China.  No matter how you slice it humanity’s future ultimately lies in space and I hope that the United States keeps an important role in that future.

All of that being said, I do think that this experiment and others like it are important to do before a mission is planned and executed.  The astronauts only had about 550 cubic meters to live and work in, which replicated what actual astronauts would have traveling in between Earth and Mars and as a habitat on Mars..  In addition to space limitations they had to perform many experiments and tests, deal with limited food and water, and perhaps most difficult of all deal with isolation and unchanging routine for a year and a half.  Overall, I think the experiment was a success and an important, if small step, on our journey to the stars.

Follow this link to read an article and see a 15 minute video detailing their 520 days in isolation.


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