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Mock mission to Mars underway

Researchers entered a capsule last June to simulate a trip to Mars.
Researchers entered a capsule last June to simulate a trip to Mars. (Ivan Sekretarev - AP)
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Saturday, January 29, 2011; 5:20 PM

What would it be like to go on a mission to Mars?

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Six researchers are coming as close as any people ever have. They have spent more than 240 days inside windowless capsules in a Russian space center as part of a 520-day mock flight to the Red Planet and back.

Their mission is meant to help space crews in the future deal with interplanetary travel.

The researchers communicate with the outside world via e-mails and video messages from their bus-sized module. There are units for exercise and experiments. The crew members eat canned food and shower only once a week. A modelimitation of the Red Planet's surface is attached for the pretend landing, which is set for Feb. 12.

The researchers will spend two days researching the planet before beginning the return "flight" to Earth. A real mission to Mars is decades away because of its costs and technological challenges.

What would be the hardest part of a mission like this? Would you like to go? Send your answers to kidspost@washpost.com. Include your name, age, hometown and a phone number. We may publish some in a future KidsPost.

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