Friday, September 14, 2007

It's Me or the Cosmos

Bold prediction: the Russians will be the first country to Mars:

In order to prepare for the arduous journey [to Mars], four Russians and two people selected by ESA will participate in experiments to simulate long-distance space travel: They will be locked up in a model spacecraft for 520 days as human guinea pigs. No outside air and no daylight will penetrate the container's aluminum walls. In effect, it will be like the reality TV show Big Brother, only for science instead of cheap entertainment.

Some 5,000 men and women from 45 countries have applied so far. "I see good chances especially for eastern Germans, since the participants have to speak fluent Russian as well as English," says ESA researcher Marc Heppener. The application deadline ends this month and finalists for the experiment starting in 2008 will be determined in December.

Sergey Ryazanski has already passed all the necessary medical and psychological tests. The athletic, blue-eyed, 32-year-old Russian is testing one of the wooden cots in the mock spacecraft's sleeping module. His grandfather helped build one of the very first Soviet rockets and two years ago he managed to graduate from Russia's cosmonaut training program. A romantic attraction to outer space simply runs in the family blood. "My wife was the only one who couldn't understand that," Sergey sighs. She divorced him.

Now that's what I call dedication.

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