MOSCOW — Three men will simulate walking on Mars next month as part of a project that has seen a multinational crew locked up inside a mock Moscow spaceship since June, the head of the project said Friday.

The team of six participants will "land" on the Red Planet on February 12 after spending more than eight months in isolation in the module, which was built at Moscow's Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP).

"The spaceship will reach the orbit of Mars on February 1, the landing is planned for February 12, and three 'Mars walks' will occur between February 14 and 22," Boris Morukov, who heads the Mars-500 project, told RIA Novosti.

The team of six, which includes three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian-Colombian, and a Chinese, are in good health, he said.

"Some have become physically stronger due to regular exercise," Morukov said.

The spaceship will simulate one month on Mars during which time three crew members will attempt walks: a Russian cosmonaut, a European Space Agency astronaut, and Wang Yue, the volunteer from the Astronaut Center of China.

The crew will not emerge from the hatch until November, after their spaceship 'returns' to Earth. Until then, it will only re-open if one of the team pulls out: he will be deemed dead and his 'body' pushed out to space.

The experiment simulates the real time it would take to reach Mars and perform experiments while in total isolation from society. Some 105 research experiments are planned during the mission, Morukov said.

Unlike a real spaceflight, mission participants will not be subjected to the debilitating effects of weightlessness and ionizing radiation.

An online blog created by the institute together with Google (http://mars500main.appspot.com/) follows the daily life of the six participants and explains their research activities in the hatch.

A real joint mission to Mars is planned for 2030 by 26 space agencies, Roskosmos chief Anatoly Perminov said in November.

Source 2011 AFP

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