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July 20st, 2019, will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic Moon Touchdown, the place astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the lunar floor for the primary time. This accomplishment was the excessive level of the “House Race” and has remained NASA’s crowning achievement in house. Within the coming years, NASA will try and return to the Moon, the place they are going to be joined by a number of different house businesses.

To organize for these eventual missions, a gaggle of cosmonauts just lately commenced an isolation experiment that may simulate a long-term mission to the Moon. It’s known as the SIRIUS-19 experiment, which started earlier in the present day at 02:00 p.m. native time (04:00 a.m. PDT; 07:00 a.m. EDT) on the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Biomedical Issues (IBMP) in Moscow.

This experiment is a collaborative effort between the German Aerospace Middle (DLR), the French house company – the Nationwide Research for House Exploration (CNES) – the Russian house company (Roscosmos) and NASA. For this analog experiment, three feminine and three male cosmonauts will spend the following 122 days within the IBMP simulated lunar facility (aka. the NEK Habitat) in Moscow.

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The six members of the Sirius-19 experiment. Credit score: DLR

This facility was used as a part of the Mars500 Examine, a sequence of cooperative isolation experiments carried out by Roscosmos and the ESA from 2007 to 2011 to simulate a long-duration mission to Mars. Repurposed for lunar missions, this facility is now a part of the SIRIUS program, which goals to deal with the challenges posed by long-duration lunar missions.

As Christian Rogon, the SIRIUS Venture Supervisor on the DLR, defined in a latest DLR press launch:

“Solely biomedical analysis of this nature will make future journeys to different celestial our bodies potential. Six of those experiments have been developed in Germany… Nonetheless, earlier than any significant analysis could be carried out on the Moon, crews have to be skilled to efficiently full such a mission. For this, as in SIRIUS-19, they need to be capable of stay for a very long time beneath circumstances during which they are going to be subjected to a combination of psychological stress, as a consequence of whole isolation, and a excessive diploma of strain to carry out properly. Solely on this means can we study extra in regards to the interplay of physique and thoughts in isolation.”

Commanding this experiment is 44-year-old Russian cosmonaut Evgeny Tarelkin, who went to house in 2012 and spent six months aboard the Worldwide House Station (ISS) as a part of Expedition 33/34. He can be joined by American astronauts Reinhold Povilaitis and Allen Mirkadyrov, and Russian cosmonauts Daria Zhidova, Anastasia Stepanova and Stephania Fedeye.

“The fascinating factor for SIRIUS-19 is that the crew consists of an equal variety of women and men,” stated Rogon. “How does a mixed-sex crew address the challenges of isolation? How does it take care of potential mishaps? How does it react to elevated efficiency strain? These are all fascinating questions, and we’re very curious to seek out out the solutions.”

Elevated view of the IBMP facility the place the SIRIUS-19 mission will happen. Credit: IBMP

The experiment will begin with a three-day journey to the habitat, which simulates the period of time it could take to succeed in the Moon. Shortly thereafter, they are going to conduct a simulated rendezvous with the a part of the habitat that represents the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) – a proposed house station that may start development within the subsequent decade – and spend the following 100 days conducting a sequence of experiments.

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The staff can even have a every day routine that may simulate dwelling and dealing circumstances aboard the LOP-G. This may include every day well being and health checks, sporting actions, security coaching, common cleansing and upkeep, and docking/undocking procedures. They can even obtain common deliveries of meals and provides, which just like the ISS, will happen each 30 days.

Simply to maintain issues fascinating, the crew can even must take care of some sudden developments throughout their keep. As Rogon defined:

“For the reason that monotony of working in a really restricted house can change into a significant problem, the crew can even have to answer sudden technical failures and malfunctions, corresponding to a five-day break in communications with ‘floor management’.”

For eight hours a day, the staff can even be finishing up scientific experiments, of which a complete of 70 have been ready – six of which had been offered by the DLR. For instance, the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medication in Cologne is utilizing this mission to check a brand new coaching program that permits astronauts to apply manually docking spacecraft with house stations.

Artist’s impression of the Russian Federation spacecraft. Credit score: CSEF

The Institute of House Programs on the College of Stuttgart, beneath the steerage of former German astronaut Reinhold Ewald, has additionally devised a venture that focuses on docking maneuvers. For this experiment, the six cosmonauts should simulate steering the brand new Russian PTK Federatsiya spacecraft and docking it with the LOP-G.

As well as, the German Sport College Cologne devised two experiments to analyze the best coaching strategies for combating the consequences low-gravity has on astronaut physiology and psychology. These embody muscle atrophy and bone density loss, but additionally prolong to diminished cardiovascular well being, visible impairment, and psychological well-being.

Sleep docs from the Berlin Charité hospital are additionally testing if sleep-deprivation will have an effect on the efficiency and nervous methods of well-trained ‘cosmonauts’ in isolation. As well as, the Beuth College of Utilized Sciences in Berlin are testing specialised silver and graphite surfaces to see if these would possibly stop or fight bacterial contamination on long-term missions.

As well as, the crew will participate in a simulated mission to the lunar floor. “Precisely midway by the SIRIUS isolation research, 4 ‘cosmonauts’ will land on the lunar floor in a small capsule,” stated Rogon. “As soon as there, they are going to perform a number of ‘Moon walks’ whereas carrying spacesuits, acquire samples and put together a ‘settlement’ on the Moon – a really particular expertise.”

Artist’s idea of the lunar lander and crew on the lunar floor. Credit score: Lockheed Martin

Over the past 30 days of the experiment, the crew can even simulate conducting floor explorations utilizing remote-controlled rovers. They can even conduct a number of extra docking simulations and end the final of their experiments earlier than returning to Moscow.

That is the third SIRIUS experiment, the primary of which happened in 2017 (SIRIUS-17). For this experiment, three NASA astronauts and three Roscosmos cosmonauts spent seventeen days within the IBMP habitat. Within the coming years, a number of extra simulations of accelerating length are deliberate, which embody an eight-month mission in 2020 and a 12-month mission in 2021 (SIRIUS-20 and 21).

These and different experiments are serving to to organize house businesses and astronauts for the following technology of lunar exploration, the teachings of which can even be utilized to future missions to Mars and different astronomical our bodies.

Additional Studying: DLR

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