SIX SCIENTISTS and engineers participating in a simulated mission to Mars have emerged from the structure in which they spent the last 520 days.
The mission began with a mock trip from Earth to Mars and the Mars500 group of three Russians, two Europeans and one Chinese has been isolated for the duration of the experiment since it began on 3 June 2010.
The seal on their habitation unit at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow was broken at 10am this morning to mark the end of the mission and the six men emerged smiling and waving from the capsule.
Throughout the past 17 months, the six men worked and lived in much the same way as astronauts do on the International Space Station. They also carried out a range of experiments aimed at providing information which could be used to shape real missions to the red planet.
Emerging from the capsule today, Diego Urbina said that the group of six had undertaken the longest ever space voyage while still on the Earth. He said they did it “so that humankind can one day greet a new dawn [elsewhere in space]“.
French participant Romain Charles said that the scientists “hope we can help future mission to Mars”, while Chinese crew member Yue Wang said he was “glad to be back” and looked forward to meeting his family.
The six men will undergo medical checks before being reunited with their families, according to Urbina, who tweeted throughout the mission. The group will also undergo psychological evaluation.
Scientists will continue to work on information the group gathered throughout the mock mission for at least another month, analysing the final data collected on board.
Here’s a video by the European Space Agency which condenses the 520-day mission into a handy 15 minute overview (it also includes a grand tour of the crew members’ quarters):
Gallery: Opening the hatch: