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'Mars500' European crew selected

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Mars500 experiment facility in Moscow. An ESA photo

NEW DELHI (BNS): Two Europeans have been finalised for the simulated flight to Mars while selection of the full crew is still under way.

The Europeans - Romain Charles, 31, from France, is a quality manager at Sotira, a company producing composite panels and Diego Urbina, 26, has Italian-Colombian nationality and a wide experience in the space field, ESA said.

The full crew will comprise of two Europeans, three Russians and one Chinese. The astronauts will begin their record-breaking 'Mars500' mission in early June.

"The European members have already been selected in order to allow them to visit family and friends before they are faced with a 'space mission' that is in many ways even more challenging than launching for real into orbit," ESA said in a statement.

"Iím really excited and happy having this possibility," said Diego Urbina. "But of course I also have mixed feelings and Iím slightly worried about the unexpected things, mainly psychological, that may happen during the isolation. But these are the issues weíre most interested in!"

Mars500 is a 520-day simulated mission to Mars. The sealed mockup includes an interplanetary spaceship, a Mars lander and a martian landscape. The module is housed in Russiaís Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in Moscow.

Food will be provided to last the full duration of the mission. The crew has to manage their consumption accordingly. Communication will be via e-mail only and the connection will occasionally be disrupted. It will include also a maximum of 40-minute delay, as on a real Mars mission. They will be monitored and their psychological and physiological parameters recorded throughout the mission.

The experiment, as long as a real journey to Mars, will test technologies for extremely long flights, but it is also unique as a test of human endurance.

The crew will live and work like astronauts on the International Space Station. They will follow a seven-day week, with two days off, except when special and emergency situations are simulated.

During the 'surface operations' after 250 days, the crew will be divided, with three moving to the martian 'surface', while the other three remain in the orbiting 'spacecraft' for a month. The landing crew will venture out on the 'Martian' surface wearing modified Russian Orlan spacesuits.

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