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Mars-500 experiment

On 3 June 2010 at 10:49 UTC, six volunteers began the Mars-500 experiment at the IMBP, where they spent 520 days – to 4 November 2011 – in a mockup of a spaceship to simulate a Mars mission. ESA also participated in the study, mainly to research the psychology of such a mission; they supplied two of the volunteers, and China one. Estimated cost of the project is €15 million (around $20.5 million U.S. dollars).

Prior to the main mission, two shorter studies were undertaken in preparation, to test the facilities and operational procedures. The first 14-day test mission took place in November 2007, its main purpose being to verify technical equipment. A 105-day test followed in March 2009, with Russian and European volunteers participating.

The crew had experience in medicine, engineering, biology and computer, and speak Russian and English. They needed to be capable of self-organization and self-management.

The timeline of the Mars mission consisted of:

Communications between the crew and Mission Control were delayed by up to 20 minutes each way, reflecting the time lag of radio signals transmitting between Mars and Earth.

The crew were supplied with all the food required at the start of the mission, and had to regulate the supplies so they lasted for the duration. The crew’s diet was identical to that of the crews on the International Space Station, and they performed maintenance, experiments and exercise activities in the same manner, following a daily timeline. Off-nominal and emergency situations were simulated. The crew followed a seven-day week with two days off.

For Mars surface operations, the crew were divided into two groups of three.

The “spaceship” is based on the Russian Mars Interplanetary Expeditionary Complex (Межпланетный экспедиционный комплекс, MEK), and uses solar power, provided by a 120,000 m² solar array giving up to 18 MW. (An alternate version in a different configuration uses a nuclear reactor that provides power up to 25 MW.) The MEK comprises:

Facility overview

The Ground-based Experimental Facility (NEK – Nazemnom Eksperimental’nom Komplekse, НЭК – Наземном Экспериментальном Комплексе) in which the experiment will be carried out is located in a special building on the IBMP site in Moscow. This building comprises the isolation facility itself, as well as the operations room, technical facilities and offices. The current lay-out of the isolation facility comprises four hermetically sealed interconnected habitat modules, in addition to one external module, which will be used to imitate a stay on the “Martian surface”. The total volume of the habitat modules is 550 m³. A technical drawing of the architecture of the facility is given in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Layout of NEK facilities at IBMP in Moscow Module

Module 1: Technical-medical module

Module 1 (3.2m × 11.9m) will house two medical berths, a toilet and equipment for routine medical examinations and telemedical, laboratory and diagnostic investigations. Should a crewmember become ill, he/she can be isolated and treated here.

Module 2: Living quarters

Module 2 (3.6m × 20m) will be the main living quarters for the crew. It comprises six individual compartments for the crewmembers, a kitchen-dining room, a living room, the main control room and a toilet. The individual compartments (2.8-3.2m²) will have a bed, a desk, chair and shelves for personal belongings.

Module 3: Mars landing module

Module 3 (6.3m × 6.17m) will simulate the Mars landing module and will only be used during the 30-day “Mars orbiting” phase. It accommodates up to three crewmembers and will have three bunk beds, two workstations, a toilet, a control and data collection system, a video control and communications system, gas analysis system, air-conditioning and ventilation system, sewage system and water supply and a fire alarm and suppression system.

Module 4: Storage module

Module 4 (3.9m × 24m) is divided into four compartments: – compartment 1 will house a fridge for storage of food – compartment 2 will be used for storage of non-perishable food – compartment 3 will house the experimental greenhouse – compartment 4 will house the bathroom, sauna and gym. The technical installations include all necessary equipment for running the study (communications and control, ventilation and air supply, water supply, electrical installations, sewerage, air and water quality monitoring and partial recycling, medical equipment, fire and other safety monitoring systems, emergency equipment, etc.). The crew will stay in those modules under conditions of artificial atmospheric environment at normal barometric pressure.

Mars-500 diagram, TsUP

A diagram on the TsUP Mars-500 page:

  1. This module will descend to the surface of Mars. It is calculated that 3 people will stay in it for 2-3 months.
  2. All experiments will be carried out here.
  3. The “habitable” module consists of the personal cabins of the crew members, wardroom, kitchen and main control panel.
  4. Here will be located a greenhouse, depository of food reserves, storage of dishes, clothing and so forth, etc.
  5. This module simulates the surface of Mars. From it is the exit to the red planet.

ESA diagram (189 KB) of the Mars-500 facility.


Two recycled and modified Orlan-DMA spacesuits will be used during the outside excursion on a simulation of the Mars surface. Their weight has been reduced to 30 kg for use in Earth gravity (normal Orlans are around 120 kg). Internal life support equipment has been removed from the backpack to reduce weight; instead, breathable atmosphere is fed in through long umbilical hoses attached to the spacesuit.

The color of the spacesuit fabric is not the usual white, but a peach shade.

Tools used for the excursions are lunar surface tools left over from ones developed for the canceled Soviet lunar program.

There is a gallery at the Mars-500 site from mid-2009 of a spacesuit being tested in the Mars surface simulator.

Short-duration experiments

15-29 November 2007

In November 2007 a short-duration 14-day stay in the Mars-500 facility was conducted, beginning 15/11 at 11:00 and finishing on 29/11 at 14:00. The crew were all Russian, 5 men and 1 woman:

The experiment was conducted in two modules of the IMBP medical-technical complex: EU-150/ЭУ-150 (habitable module with a volume of 150 m³) and EU-100/ЭУ-100 (medical module with a volume of 100 m³). Newly-developed life-support systems, monitoring and control, information management and the local tele-medical network were tested for the duration of the experiment.

The crew did not have Internet access or TV, but could talk to those outside via Internet Phone (Skype). Smoking and alcohol were forbidden.

The female presence in the crew did not prove disruptive as all knew that they had to behave professionally. Women in future crews are now a possibility – previously they were not to be included.


Russia continues flight simulation experiments for Mars-500,” RIA Novosti, 15 April. Four volunteers will spend ten days in a compression chamber with a reduced oxygen level as preparation for Mars-500; this will provide information on the physiological impact of a flight to Mars and back. No date for the experiment given in the article.


105-day mission

The 105-day mission began on 31 March 2009, and successfully concluded on 14 July at 10:00 UTC. The crew consists of 4 Russians and 2 Europeans. The final crew composition was:

ESA crew selection

In 2008 ESA began selecting candidates whose training commenced on 26 January 2009. Below are links to ESA News articles concerning the selection process.

520-day experiment

Selection candidates for the 520-day Mars flight simulation were announced on 26/2/2010. There was one Chinese candidate (from the Astronaut Center of China), and no women. The official reason given was that there were no suitable female candidates; unofficially it was claimed the scientists wanted to avoid “sexual tension”.

Mars-520 selection candidates
Name Age Country Profession (for simulation)
Sukhrob Kamolov
Камолов, Сухроб Рустамович
32 Russia Doctor, surgeon
Mikhail Sidel’nikov
Синельников, Михаил Олегович
37 Russia Engineer-electrician
Aleksei Sitev
Ситев, Алексей Сергеевич
38 Russia Engineer
Alexander Smoleevskii
Смолеевский, Александр Егорович
33 Russia Doctor, GP
Врач общей практики
Alexander Sukhov
Сухов, Александр Викторович
32 Russia Engineer
Boris Yegorov
Егоров, Борис Афанасьевич
44 Russia Engineer
Andrei Zhirnov
Жирнов, Андрей Александрович
30 Russia Engineer
Jerome Clevers 30 Belgium Engineer
Arc’hanmael Gaillard 34 France Engineer
Diego Urbina 27 Italy Engineer
Wang Yue 27 China Tester

The finalists, announced on 18 May, were:

The mission began 3 June 2010, and ends on 4 November 2011. Each participant will recieve 3 million rubles (nearly USD$100,000). Some details of the simulation scenario:

The spaceship’s trajectory is maintained by small engine impulses. Electrojet ion engines are used, with argon being the propellant gas, and 17 to 25 MW of power is needed. Power supply is either solar (120 000 sq. m sails providing 18 Mvt) or nuclear (25 MW).

Mars flight data
Полет в сфере действия Земли – старт с орбиты ИСЗ
Flight in Earth’s orbit – launch from artificial satellite orbit
Старт с опорной орбиты искусственного спутника Земли
Launch from support orbit of the artificial companion of the Earth
10/10/2017 00:46:00
Время раскрутки, сутки
Acceleration time, days
Расход топлива, тонн
Fuel used, tonnes
Перелет Земля-Марс
Flight from Earth to Mars
Дата отлета со сферы действия Земли
Date of leaving Earth’s gravitational influence
17/01/2018 23:00:00
Время перелета Т, сутки
Flight time, days
Моторное время t, сутки
Motor time t, days
Расход топлива, тонн
Fuel used, tonnes
Полет в сфере действия Марса
Flight in Mars orbit
Дата выхода на сферу действия Марса
Exit date from Mars’ gravitational influence
22/08/2018 01:00:00
Время скрутки, сутки
Time duration, days
Расход топлива, тонн
Fuel used, tonnes
Дата выхода на орбиту искусственного спутника Марса
Date of entering orbit around the artificial satellite of Mars
29/09/2018 06:11:00
Орбитальная фаза полета, сутки
Orbital phase of flight, days
Дата схода с орбиты искусственного спутника Марса
Date of descent from orbit of the artificial satellite of Mars
29/10/2018 03:39:00
Время раскрутки, сутки
Acceleration time, days
Расход топлива, тонн
Fuel used, tonnes
Перелет Марс-Земля
Flight from Mars to Earth
Дата отлета со сферы действия Марса
Date of leaving Mars’ gravitational influence
5/12/2018 03:59:00
Время перелета Т, сутки
Flight time, days
Моторное время t, сутки
Acceleration time, days
Расход топлива, тонн
Fuel used, tonnes
Полет в сфере действия Земли – возвращение
Flight in sphere of action of the Earth – returning
Дата выхода на сферу действия Земли
Exit date from Earth’s gravitational influence
11/08/2019 03:59:00
Время скрутки, сутки
Flight time, days
Расход топлива, тонн
Fuel used, tonnes
Дата завершения полета
Flight completion date
10/10/2019 02:44:00
Характеристики уточненной баллистической схемы
Characteristics of the refined trajectory plan
Общее время экспедиции, сутки
Total expedition duration, days
Затраты рабочего тела, тонн
Energiy of working body, tonnes
Начальная масса МПК на орбите ИСЗ
The initial mass of the MPK on-orbit satellite
Минимальное расстояние от Солнца, а. е.
Minimum distance from the Sun
Earth to Mars travel distances (in km)
Misson day/date From Earth To Mars
14 (17/6/2010) 71,000 316,540,000
22 (25/6/2010) 138,500 306,846,000
29 (2/7/2010) 300,000 297,670,000
44 (16/7/2010) 1,457,000 279,657,000
58 (30/7/2010) 3,904,000 261,140,000
65 (6/8/2010) 5,467,000 250,386,000
75 (17/8/2010) 8,089,000 234,374,000
79 (20/8/2010) 9,471,000 227,019,000
93 (3/9/2010) 15,721,000 200,022,000
100 (10/9/2010) 19,266,000 87,267,000
107 (17/9/2010) 23,932,000 172,428,000
114 (27/9/2010) 28,475,000 159,870,000
125 (4/10/2010) 33,143,000 142,787,000
128 (8/10/2010) 36,852,000 130,852,000
135 (15/10/2010) 40,818,000 117,495,000
142 (22/10/2010) 44,380,000 104,461,000
149 (29/10/2010) 47,167,000 92,962,000
159 (8/11/2010) 50,160,000 78,268,000
162 (12/11/2010) 50,707,000 74,017,000
170 (19/11/2010) 51,991,000 62,896,000
177 (26/11/2010) 52,507,000 54,527,000
184 (3/12/2010) 52,659,000 5,163,000
191 (10/12/2010) 55,289,000 3,255,000
198 (17/12/2010) 58,309,000 1,907,000
205 (24/12/2010) 61,865,000 886,000
212 (31/12/2010) 65,897,000 265,000
226 (14/1/2011) 74,587,000 16,100
233 (21/1/2011) 79,666,000 7,600

The Mars landing followed this schedule:

Mars landing schedule
Date Activity
01/02/11 Putting on Martian orbit and hatch opening in module EU-50 (landing Martian module)
12/02/11 Crew separation, hatch closing in module EU-50, undocking and landing on Mars.
14/02/11 The first appearance on the Martian surface. Participants – Alexander Smoleevsky and Diego Urbina.
18/02/11 The second appearance on the Martian surface. Participants – Alexander Smoleevsky and Van Jue.
22/02/11 The third appearance on the Martian surface. Participants – Alexander Smoleevsky and Diego Urbina.
23/02/11 Launch from the surface of Mars.
24/02/11 Docking with the basic complex, the quarantine beginning.
27/02/11 The quarantine termination, hatch opening in module EU-150 (living module), join of crews.
01/03/11 Hatch closing in module EU-50 (landing Martian module).
02/03/11 At 19:00, the crew undocked lander (left it in the orbit of Mars) and took the course back to Earth.
Mars to Earth travel distances (in km)
Misson day/date From Mars To Earth
313 (11/4/2011 – depart Mars 3/3/2011) 1,606,000 160,485,000
338 (6/5/2011) 25,206,000 212,983,000
345 (13/5/2011) 38,030,000 219,465,000
352 (20/5/2011) 45,642,000 220,580,000
359 (27/5/2011) 62,514,000 219,372,000
394 (1/7/2011) 190,256,000 145,509,000
401 (8/7/2011) 213,661,000 128,898,000
415 (22/7/2011) 261,118,000 94,210,000
422 (29/7/2011) 284,720,000 76,790,000
429 (5/8/2011) 303,384,000 63,180,000
436 (12/8/2011) 322 538 000 48 158 000
446 (22/8/2011) 357,622,000 27,708,000
450 (26/8/2011) 373,331,000 17,226,000
460 (5/9/2011) 389,690,000 7,486,000
464 (9/9/2011) 395,914,000 3,454,000
471 (16/9/2011) 398,196,000 1,756,000
478 (23/9/2011) 399,489,000 694,000
485 (30/9/2011) 400,201,000 209,000
492 (7/10/2011) 399,939,000 72,700