Earth from a window: Moscow student talks about the Mars-160 project

Earth from a window: Moscow student talks about the Mars-160 project
To find out more about the expeditions held under the project Mars-160 project in the Martian-like deserts of Utah, USA, and an inhabitable island in the Arctic, read this article.

Space is the last frontier of humankind. During her lecture at Moscow’s First Popular Scientific Library, member of the Mars-160 project’s multinational crew Anastasia Stepanova told the audience how researchers are preparing to go “where no man has ever gone before.” Stepanova is a junior research scientist at Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Biomedical Problems, a space journalist, a student at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University and an emergency volunteer for the Spasreserv search and rescue team.

In isolation

The Mars-160 project is aimed at isolating a multinational crew of seven members, which included a representative from Russia.

The first three month-long expedition took place at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, USA, in autumn of 2016. The next one was held on Devon Island, Canada, in the Arctic, and was shorter, lasting one month instead of three.

Anastasia decided to take part in this journey not only to cover the crew’s life in detail, but also, with the help of RAS’ Institute of Biomedical Problems, to carry out psychological testing, collect data and transfer it to researchers.

For our common future

The Mars-160 project is being carried out under the watchful eye of the Mars Society – a non-profit organisation dedicated to issues of the human exploration of Mars. Founded by Robert Zubrin in 1998, this organisation is supported by many famous science fiction writers and directors, including James Cameron. Among other things, the Mars Society is studying the prospects for organising a private flight to the Red Planet.

No giving up

This experiment turned out to be a serious test of the crew’s endurance. Lack of personal space, water, resources and contact with the outside world had a significant impact on the crew. However, a sense of humour and strong motivation kept crew members from giving up halfway through even in the worst of times.

During the first expedition held in the Martian-like sands of Utah, the crew experienced many challenges. This desert, however, turned out to be a five-star resort when compared to the uninhabitable Arctic island. Devoid of any comfort, isolated, with polar bears for neighbours, the researchers experienced a wide range of challenges in addition to the cold, humidity and intermittent power outages.

Despite the exhausting and psychologically harsh monotony outside, the crew carried out their microbiological research while wearing 14-kilogramme mockup spacesuits, exercising and even giving culinary events.

When the world turned upside down

Was it hard to decide to participate in such a serious experiment? It is easy to contemplate while sitting on a couch, but to achieve something you have to act first, Stepanova says. She is working hard to achieve her main goal – to prepare for a flight to Mars, and believes that humanity will set foot on the Red Planet in 10 years, as soon as the work on the Martian project is complete.

Moon as the last frontier

In March, 2019, Anastasia Stepanova will participate in the Russian project Sirius, a four-month isolation experiment to simulate the flight to the Moon, which includes the flight itself, four crew members’ landing to carry out experiments on the surface, orbiting the Moon, remotely controlling moon rovers to prepare a base, and the flight back to Earth. The Sirius missions will last a total of 8, 12 and 24 months. The experiment begins on 19 March.

Materials provided by Natalia Romanova, First Student Agency’s correspondent.

Photos from Anastasia Stepanova’s personal archives.