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2011's 10 Biggest Moments in Science


5
Mars500 Returns!
Mars500 crew members avoid space madness in their wood-paneled "spaceship." Here they prepare to record their brains' electrical activity.
Mars500 crew members avoid space madness in their wood-paneled "spaceship." Here they prepare to record their brains' electrical activity.
Photo courtesy ESA/Mars500 crew

Remember that time you nearly killed your sibling, friend or loved one during an exceptionally long car ride? You may blame cramped conditions, gridlocked traffic or hunger-driven crankiness, but we all know what was up: space madness, pure and simple. You've seen it in science fiction, and it's a very real concern for proponents of manned space travel.

Recall that outer space is big and that it takes quite a while to get anywhere with current or even near-future technology. That's why the European Space Agency loaded six male volunteers inside a cramped, wood-paneled mock spaceship and kept the door shut for 520 days. The hatch closed on June 3, 2010, and didn't open until Nov. 4, 2011.

During that time, the Mars500 crew members conducted experiments to gauge their psychological state during the isolation, enduring bland food and what few amenities fit in their 19,400-cubic-foot (550-cubic-meter) chambers.

The experiment was a landmark in humanity's continued ramp-up to a manned visit to the red planet. Researchers thoroughly examined the crew members upon their emergence to gauge exactly how well their bodies and minds held up during the isolation.


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