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People's Daily Online>>Science

Lost in simulated space

By Wang Ru (China Daily)

15:48, January 19, 2012

China's Wang Yue was one of astronauts in the Mars-500 project to discover the effects of prolonged space flight on the body and mind. Wang Ru reports.

Wang Yue, who is still recovering from 520 days of isolation while simulating a manned space flight to Mars, was given an award to honor his achievement at the Astronaut Center of China (ACC) in Beijing on Monday.

The 29-year-old was one of six astronauts in the Mars-500 project, conducted by the Institute for Bio-Medical Problems (IBMP) at the Russian Academy of Sciences, in cooperation with The European Space Agency and ACC.

It has been more than two months since he left the simulated spaceship where he spent two birthdays, two Christmas Days and one Spring Festival.

"I would like to do the isolation experiment again but absolutely not right now," he says with a smile, while recalling the exciting and sometimes tortuous experience.

He was chosen as one of three astronauts to simulate a landing on Mars but had to routinely give urine and blood samples, perform experiments and deal with loneliness and depression.

In one of the experiments that almost drove Wang crazy, he had to gaze at a screen that displayed a circle of 16 round spots that surrounding a dot in the center. As one spot in the circle was randomly illuminated, Wang had to use his computer mouse to drag the center spot to the illuminated spot, as the cursor moved about randomly.

Inside the EU50 chamber, where he prepared for the landing on Mars, Wang wore a 35-kg spacesuit to sleep upside down to adjust to the gravity of Mars.

"I felt my blood rush to my head," he says.

The crew showered every 10 days, and Wang would often count down to the next shower. "It made me feel like time went faster," he says.

When the hatch was opened on Nov 4, 2011, the crew of six astronauts - three Russians, one French, one Italian and Wang, the only Chinese - stepped out of the spaceship.

During the 520 days of the experiment, they never left the ground but went through all the simulated experiences of a manned space journey to Mars and back, beginning from June 3, 2010.

"Can you believe we won't live together from now on?" Diego Urbina, the Italian engineer astronaut, said to Wang after being with him for 18 months in the windowless spaceship modules. Wang says the six of them became close friends.

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