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Sunday Read: What the Mars500 Expedition Team Read During Their Year and a Half in Isolation

The Mars500 expedition was a simulated trip to Mars that saw six men living in isolation for a year and a half from June 2010 to November 2011. After eight months of simulated flight they got to explore “Mars”, a corrugated steel shack complete with a strand of red café lights, before returning to the ship for the trip home.

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Sally McGrane from The New Yorker caught up with them recently to find out what books they had taken with them. Alexander Smoleevskiy, a Russian researcher, optimistically took War and Peace to read on the expedition, but found that he couldn’t get into it and so read a medical textbook instead. Diego Urbina, an Italian space engineer, took the collected works of Gabriel García Márquez.

Urbina told McGrane that Márquez’s writing helped him to cope with the difficulties of the expedition and that The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor particularly impacted on him: “I was reading that at night, everything was silent, I was alone in my three-metre-by-three-metre cabin. It became completely real for me, I could feel myself in the boat, waiting for the sharks and the coast to appear on the horizon.”

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Urbina took advantage of the extended periods of free time on the expedition to read, finishing 27 books in total. “In the end, what you are doing, it’s really cold, really repetitive. You need to stay in touch with your humanity. Books are a really good tool for that”, he said.

So, if you’re behind on your reading and don’t mind spending months in isolation then you can join these South Africans and apply to be one of the first people to set foot on Mars. The Mars One expedition aims to create a human settlement on Mars with the first batch leaving Earth in 2023.

Read McGrane’s article:

On June 3, 2010, six men filed through the weedy, Soviet-era campus of the Institute of Biomedical Problems, in Moscow. They made their way past friends, family, scientists, well-wishers and a bronze-toned, gigantic statue of the astronaut Yuri Gagarin before entering a vaulted hall that contained a mock-up of the type of spacecraft that could one day ferry humans to Mars. The men climbed aboard. Behind them, the hatch sealed shut. They didn’t come out for a year and a half.

The Mars500 expedition was the world’s first full-length test of what it would be like for astronauts to travel to and from Mars, which is much farther from Earth than the moon. For five hundred and twenty days, the international crew—three members came from the Russian space agency, two from the European space agency, and one from the Chinese space agency—lived as if they were in flight, eating Russian space food, moving through the capsule’s diminutive rooms via tube-shaped metal hallways, performing scientific experiments to see what was happening to their bodies and their minds, sometimes losing contact with mission control, and only occasionally getting word from their families.

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Image courtesy Worldwide News


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    July 7th, 2013 @17:54 #

    Splendid Sunday Read :)


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