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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

6 Researchers to Simulate Mars Mission in Moscow

APThe "spacecraft" at the Institute for Medical and Biological Problems��
Six researchers were locked inside a mock-up of a spacecraft Tuesday in northwest Moscow, where they will spend more than 100 days for an experiment scientists say could speed up an eventual manned mission to Mars.

The all-male crew -- including four Russians, a German and a Frenchman -- will spend 105 days in the simulator at the Institute for Biomedical Problems to test conditions for humans flying to the Red Planet, the European Space Agency said.

"This experiment is unique because it focuses exactly on the conditions expected during such a flight," agency spokesman Markus Bauer told The Moscow Times in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Bauer said that while a human mission could be expected sometime between 2020 and 2030, the test program, dubbed Mars 500, could mean a mission earlier rather than later.

While conditions will exclude the effect of weightlessness, the study will help determine key psychological and physiological effects of being in an enclosed environment for an extended time period, the agency said on its web site.

If the test is successful, a full 520-day study is slated to kick off later this year. Scientists say a return journey to Mars might take up to 700 days.

The crew will simulate the launch, journey and arrival on Mars, and communications with controllers will have 20-minute delays to imitate a real flight.