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People's Daily Online>>Science

Trip to 'Mars' takes its toll

By Xin Dingding  (China Daily)

08:19, December 07, 2011

Wang Yue, the only Chinese volunteer in the Mars-500 experiment program, is welcomed by his colleagues at the Astronaut Center of China in Beijing after he returned on Tuesday from a 520-day stay in a mock-up spacecraft to Mars. (China Daily;Feng Yongbin)

BEIJING - Despite becoming a bit thin and losing some of his hair, Wang Yue looks cheerful.

After spending 520 days in a mock-up spacecraft, plus one month for extended experiments, the only Chinese volunteer in the Mars-500 program returned to Beijing on Tuesday.

"If I have a chance to do it all over again, I'm willing to do it," said the 29-year-old native from Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu province.

"But I will probably improve my communication skills in Russian, make a better plan for physical exercise and get my lost hair back."

Between June 3, 2010, and Nov 4, 2011, he and three Russians, one French and one Italian spent 18 months in an isolated experimental facility in Moscow to test how human beings respond to the pressures of a there-and-back voyage to Mars.

Dressed in a black leather jacket, blue jeans and wearing a gray wool scarf, the young man received an ovation upon his arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport.

Hundreds of hours of recordings in the experimental facility and large numbers of samples taken from him will help scientists of China's manned space program understand the physical and psychological strains during extended space travel.

"As Chinese astronauts will stay six to 12 months in the space station (slated for 2020), the findings will be of use," Bai Yanqiang, deputy director of the Astronaut Center of China, said in an interview on Tuesday.

He said that while Wang survived the psychological challenges, all six volunteers in the program experienced emotional fluctuations and strains in human relationships.

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