On Thursday morning, six astronauts will be locked in a 550 cubic-meter windowless complex in Moscow. The mission: to simulate the experience of a real trip to Mars and back. The “voyage” will take 520 days, roughly 12 months longer than the average six-month stay at the International Space Station.
Scientists will be monitoring the international crew and studying everything from social and psychological impacts of isolation to microbiology and clinical diagnostics. Dubbed Mars500, the mission is a joint venture between the European Space Agency and the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow.
On Wednesday, we spoke to Patrik Sundblad of the ESA for details:
Throughout the spaceflight simulation, the crew will mimic the routines of astronauts like those who work on the [International Space Station](http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html). They’ll divide their days equally between ship maintenance and experiments, leisure and exercise — all while being [tested by the pressures](http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127368225) of long-term isolation.