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Diego Urbina, a participant of the Mars500 study from ESA and Roscosmos shares with us his impressions of the simulated flight to Mars.
OeWF: How did you get a chance to participate the Mars500 study? (How was the process?)
I applied, ESA did a review of the curricula of the candidates and called by phone the shortlisted ones. Those who passed the phone interview had psychological tests and an interview with a panel in Cologne at EAC. Those who passed the panel interview went to a hospital in Moscow to do medical checks for one week. After the medical checks, a few candidates were shortlisted and we started training for several months. Based on the results of the training, the final crew of 6 was chosen.
OeWF: Have you personally changed by the long period of isolation? Does the relationship changed significantly to your fellow travelers over the 500 days?
It mostly changed the perspective in daily life, one has more appreciation for many simple things one usually didn’t pay much attention to. The relationship between the group changed only in that we got to know better and better, so we could understand each other more and more easily than before.
OeWF: How real felt the simulated trip to Mars for you?
It was real in that the tasks that we were assigned were similar to those of a real spacecraft, and in that we were isolated and autonomous. During the landing on Mars, it all felt the most real to me because we were even further isolated and with a specific mission in front of us.
OeWF: To my knowledge, the participants have had the chance to leave at any time the simulation study. Is that not considered psychologically less pressure than in a real Mars mission, where you can not necessarily get off?
We were allowed to leave the simulation because of ethics, but in reality it would not be as simple as taking the decision to go home and open the door. There are so many factors at stake, it doesn’t really even cross the mind as a real option.
OeWF: Did you miss the contact with nature (plants and animals)?
We had some plants inside.
I missed nature, the sea, the sun, but I missed more friends and family.
OeWF: After your experience with the isolation would you like to fly to Mars one day really?
Yes, having done one of the hardest parts, why not doing the fun part!
OeWF: What you have done after the simulation to do first and what have you really done first?
I wanted to meet my family; in reality we got medical checks and then a delicious lunch before we could meet them.
I also wanted to ride a rollercoaster for a good part of the mission, and haven’t had the chance to do it so far.
OeWF: Thank you very much, Mr. Urbina!
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