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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

25 to 50 Years Old? Sign Up for Trip to Mars

The Federal Space Agency is looking for volunteers to go on a 520-day flight to Mars and back.

To qualify for the first round of selection, an applicant must be 25 to 50 years old. Citizenship is not important. Extra points will be awarded in the last stage of the competition to doctors, engineers and biologists.

Oh, and the five winners need not worry about insurance. The spaceship will never leave the grounds of the Institute of Medical and Biological Issues in northern Moscow.

The Federal Space Agency announced the search late last week, and by Wednesday more than 50 people from 12 countries had signed up.

The simulated flight will take place in a spaceship consisting of five modules with a total inner space of 550 cubic meters, the space agency said in a statement. Only three will make it to Mars, including one that will act as the landing craft.

The flight will take 250 days, and the crew will have 30 days to explore the Red Planet. The return flight will take 240 days.

All in all, the trip will last 520 days, with an option of extending it to 700 days, the space agency said.

Throughout the trip, the crew will be able to communicate with mission control via e-mail. Video links will be reserved for communication within the ship and with the landing module.

The crew will be subjected to stress, too, with various emergencies such as equipment malfunctions being planned.

As on much of the Earth, the crew will have a five-day working week and rest on Saturdays and Sundays. Smoking and alcohol consumption will not be allowed at any time.

Russia has no plans to eventually send a person to Mars, but it has expressed interest in helping the United States get its program for a manned mission off the ground. The goal of the simulation is to study the impact on the health of the crew and to test capabilities for remote diagnoses and treatment.

"The human being, who to a great extent will determine whether the mission is a success, is the most important factor," the space agency said in the statement, posted on its web site.

But, at the same time, human beings will be "the most vulnerable link in the system due to their susceptibility to the negative factors of the flight," it said.

Both Russians and citizens of other countries are welcome to apply because an international crew is needed, it added.

The experiment is to begin in late 2007, the Institute of Medical and Biological Issues said.

Institute spokesman Mark Belakovsky said applications had been coming in from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the United States, Britain, Australia, Belgium, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Spain and Estonia.

"The applicants come from a wide range of professions, including programmers, businessmen, doctors, engineers and biologists," he said.

Three women were among the applicants, including one who applied together with her husband.

Belakovsky said the married couple was from Russia but declined to give the nationalities of the other two female applicants. He said it was "highly unlikely" that the married couple would "officially" be allowed to have sex during the experiment.

"But they might find a way to keep it under wraps," he added.

The institute has long been responsible for the health issues associated with the country's manned space-exploration program. It has run a number of flight simulations on its premises, including some with the participation of foreigners.

During one such simulation, two Russian men exchanged blows after one of them tried to forcefully plant a kiss on the lips of a Canadian female volunteer during a New Year's celebration.

The Canadian perceived the attempted kiss as a case of sexual harassment, and institute staff had to coax her and the other volunteers to complete their 110-day stint.