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Space simulation sees Americans and Russians sealed in isolation for 4 months



A group of American and Russian volunteers this week were sealed in a collection of modular space modules in Moscow at the beginning of a four month isolation experiment designed to simulate a moon mission.
The Joint Equality Team on Tuesday began its imaginary flight into a brown brick building on the edge of the city center in a Soviet-era facility run by the Moscow Institute of Biomedical Problems.
There, they will be enclosed in a collection of narrow pipe constructions in the hangar hall of the institute for 120 days. The modules are hermetically sealed, which means they have their own atmosphere and the crew will not leave or see other human beings during the mission.
The simulation, called SIRIUS-1

9, is an unusually long isolation experiment, jointly organized by the Russian Institute and NASA. This is one of many international experiments to help plan future deep space travels by studying the physical and psychological effect of monthly isolation.

  PHOTO: The crew of SIRIUS-19 consists of Reynolds Polyvilatis, Daria Zidova, commander Evgeniy Tareklin, Anastasia Stepanova, Alan Mikadrirov and Stefania Fedaya. The crew of SIRIUS-19 consists of Reinhold Povilaitis, Daria Zidova, Commander Evgeni Tareklin, Anastasia Stepanova, Alan Mikadrirov and Stephanie Feday

A few months ago Reinhold Polviniitis sold his apartment in Arizona and put his belongings in the warehouse before joining the experiment in Moscow. 30-year-old Polyvilis, a researcher in the LRD camera at the State University of Arizona, is working to find possible landing sites for future moon missions.
Now he will live in close quarters with his five other crews, another American and four Russians.

"I'm not very worried about it – I'm booming in such environments, I'm glad to start," Povilatitis said. "My personal reason for this is to help advance the human space flight I can.

His home in the coming months is known as the ground experimental complex or NEK. The device has been in use since the 1960s when it is designed for such simulations. Although some date back to the 1970s, the ones used in this experiment have been updated.

  PHOTO: The SIRIUS-19 experiment will house a group of six men and women cosmonauts in a simulated orbital lunar station in the NEC habitat in Moscow from March to July 2019. DLR
The SIRIUS-19 experiment will be hosted of a group of six cosmonaut men and women in a simulated orbital lunar station in the NEC habitat in Moscow from March to July 2019

The modules are connected to metal tunnels that need to be walked through, hatches modeled by those of the Russian Soyuz ships. The living quarters are approximately 40 meters in a square – a long corridor with underwater cabins that contain a small desk, cupboard and bed. The kitchen is only furnished with a microwave and hot water. The common recreation area has some bags and a large TV.
Pavlinaitis and Anastasia Stepanova, his Russian teammate, were not caught in the confined space.

"It's bigger than my apartment that I left," Povilaitis said.

The mission of the team is multi-stage. First, they have to make a 10-day flight to the moon, where they will simulate docking with an orbital station. Two of them will then leave the live modules landing on the "surface" of the moon – another enclosed space where the two researchers will carry goggles for virtual reality while collecting samples and fixing a damaged moon rover. The new modules will be open to the crew in their development.

Now, sealed inside, the team will get food and supplies through the gate. Intelligent lighting will mimic daylight on Earth, darken and illuminate as sunrise and sunset. The living quarters are full of light wood, and the environment is more calming for the crew than the metal of the spacecraft.

"It looks like a sauna," laughed Stepanova, who is also a junior researcher at the institute.

  PHOTO: The SIRIUS-19 experiment will place a group of six men and women cosmonauts in a simulated orbital lunar station in the NEC habitat in Moscow from March to July 2019. DLR
The SIRIUS-19 experiment will be hosted of a group of six cosmonaut men and women in a simulated orbital lunar station at the NEC habitat in Moscow from March to July 2019.

Crew contact with the outside world will be limited to communication with "mission control" and dispatching emails to their relatives through project psychologists. To have fun, volunteers can watch movies and listen to music as well as train moving machines.

All common areas are covered with multiple dome cameras that will record the interactions of crews with each other. There is some privacy – cameras are not in sleeping cabins, toilets or showers and they will only record the sound on certain days.

Igor Kofman, who is the NASA Research Program in Russia and helps supervise the project, said the scientists will look for how isolation affects physical and psychological results.

The Moscow experiment is one of the many simulations of isolation that are happening around the world, as countries have begun seriously looking for flights to the Moon and Mars.

NASA is the leading international plan to develop plans for the so-called Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a space station circling the moon that can serve as a starting point for deep space flights.
Meanwhile, the Russian space agency has set itself the goal of unloading moon space astronauts in the mid-2020s and creating a permanent base by 2040 – an ambitious goal that many experts are questioning under the current state of Russia's space industry.

One of the unusual elements of the current experiment is the amount of technical simulation it involves. The crew will have to dock and receive supply ships, among other tasks, which means, incidentally, that if they fail to secure supplies, they will lack food.

  PHOTO: Participants in SIRIUS-19 stand near the habitat at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, where they will spend the next 4 months locked inside. IBPM
Participants in SIRIUS-19 stand at the site of the Moscow Institute of Biomedical Problems, where they will spend the next 4 months locked inside.

"In essence, this is the beginning, the first step in conducting the technical training for a lunar program," said Evgeni Tareklin, a former cosmonaut who is the crew commander. – And not just for flight, but also for capturing the moon.

This experiment is far from the longest in NEK. The Mars-500 mission, organized by Russia, China and the European Space Agency between 2007 and 2011, lasted for 250 days.
Stepanova and Povilaitis have participated in space isolation experiments before. Two years ago, Povilaitis took part in NASA in analogy with human research studies or HERA, a 45-day simulation at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. His team ended only two weeks before Hurricane Harvey forced them to evacuate.
This experience made him take the opportunity to join the Moscow experiment when he appeared.

"You will never feel like a prison if your mind is in the right place," Povilaitis said. – You just have to adjust to what makes you work well. At least speaking about yourself, you can go indefinitely. Four months do not seem too long to me. "


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