In the SIRIUS-21 international isolation exercise, launched Thursday in Moscow, six volunteers representing the US, Russia and UAE will be spending eight months close to each other, simulating an expedition to the Moon.
According to the scenario of the experiment, which is being jointly staged by the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the NASA Human Research Program, the crew will launch for the Moon, descend upon its surface, and return to Earth – all within in 240 days.
All this time they’ll actually be locked up in an autonomous facility in the Russian capital, communicating with Mission Control via radio and only being able to exchange emails with their relatives and loved ones.
SIRIUS-21, Scientific International Research in Unique Terrestrial Station Experiment (SIRIUS-21), will allow volunteers to perform similar tasks to astronauts and space cosmonauts. This includes regular training and medical supervision.
Special spacesuits with VR helmets have been developed for the project to simulate the crew’s activities on the surface of Earth’s satellite. They’re expected to collect soil samples and operate a model of a Moon rover, among other things.
The final composition of the SIRIUS-21 team was decided upon only on the eve of the ‘launch’. The crew consists of three men and three ladies. Russia is represented in the experiment by the instructor of the Cosmonauts’ Training Centre, Oleg Blinov, plus surgeon Victoria Kirichenko, and Ekaterina Karyakina, who works as a flight attendant in her regular life.
Ashley Kowalski of the US Space Systems Command, and William Brown, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Russian language, literature and culture, have joined the project on the American side. Saleh Omar, an astronaut at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (United Arab Emirates), is another participant.
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The US, Russia, China and other countries have all expressed their interest in creating bases on Moon in the future.
SIRIUS-21 was originally scheduled for June. However, it was delayed due to the pandemic coronavirus.
SIRUS is a series of isolated experiments that are becoming more extended with each iteration. After a 2017 mission that lasted 17 days, there were four-month-long tests in 2018 and 2019, which lasted four months. NASA and the Academy of Sciences plan to launch three years-long isolation programs before 2028.
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