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160-Day Mars Mission Simulation Kicks Off in Utah

posted Oct 19, 2016, 11:50 AM by Michael Stoltz   [ updated Oct 19, 2016, 11:50 AM ]
By Mike Wall
Space.com, 09.24.16

The first half of an ambitious 160-day-long simulated mission to Mars is getting underway.

Seven people from six different countries are setting up shop today (Sept. 24) at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), a facility in the Utah desert operated by nonprofit group The Mars Society. For the next 80 days, the explorers will conduct a series of experiments and exploration campaigns to hone the skills and strategies that will be needed by real-life Red Planet pioneers in the future. The same crew will then venture to The Mars Society's arctic station in 2017 for another 80-day session to complete the full 160-day mission.

"What we're doing is not an isolation experiment," Mars Society President Robert Zubrin told Space.com, contrasting this Mars 160 mission with other efforts such as Mars500, a Russian-European-Chinese project that kept six crew members cooped up inside a Moscow facility for 520 days in 2010 and 2011.

"I don't think a Mars mission is about isolation; a Mars mission is not about sending people to Mars to do nothing and watch them get bored," Zubrin added. "A Mars mission is about sending people to Mars and working them hard in an aggressive program of field exploration."

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