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Oct 7, 2015

520 Day Mars Mission Simulation by ESA Yields OK


As you already might know there are basically two types of low energy trips to Mars:: the Short Stay Mission (SSM) and the Long Stay Mission (LSM).

Long-Stay Mission (LSM)

The LSM uses the least rocket fuel and delta V but it will last about 1000 days since you have to wait on the Mars for the planets to be in right position for the symmetrical Hohmann transfer orbits.

Short-Stay Mission

The SSM on the other hand does not wait anything but stays on the Mars for example 1 month and starts the return right away and so the return part of the mission is not at all very optimal and it can last up to 400 days and goes rather close to the Sun.

There are also other types of usable and faster trajectories we will discuss later. The following figures show some estimates about such mission durations.

LSM Durations

SSM Durations

The following figures show the required energies for these two types of missions. Delta-V (the required change in velocity) for the LSM is below 8 km/s and for the SSM up to 10 km/s.

LSM delta_V

SSM delta_V

The Mars mission simulation, MARS-500, ESA made was most close to the SSM and it was successful. Although the simulation facilities were a little unrealistic, such as a separate medical module, it will probably however benefit design.

For a spacecraft design point of view: if you cannot change delta-V try to change the weight .. if (as usual) you try to minimize the size and mass of the vehicle to be launched .. to stay in some budget.


During the 17-month simulated Mars mission, the six men have run seemingly countless experiments. They have monitored their brains, scanned their bodies, given all sorts of samples and maintained their habitat.

MARS500 crew
"The answer is yes", says Patrik Sundblad, the human life sciences specialist at ESA.

"Yes, the crew can survive the inevitable isolation that is for a mission to Mars and back. Psychologically, we can do it."

Mars500 simulated spacecraft (the 4 smaller tubes)

"They have had their ups and downs, but these were to be expected. In fact, we anticipated many more problems, but the crew has been doing surprisingly well."

MARS-500 Cutawy Drawing

"August was the mental low point: it was the most monotonous phase of the mission, their friends and families were on vacation and didn’t send so many messages, and there was also little variation in food.”"

MARS-500 Isolation Experiment
[The isolation facility consisted of five different modules. Three of the modules – the habitat, utility, and medical modules – simulated the main spacecraft. The fourth module simulated the Martian-lander ship and was connected to the main spacecraft. The fifth module was a simulator of the Martian surface, and is connected to the Martian-lander. The combined volume of the modules was 550 m3 (19,000 cu ft).]

The scientists are already happy with the quality of the unique material they have and are looking forward to working with all the new information.

The crew’s spirits rose again with the approaching finale of the mission, the normal flow of messages after the holiday period and, especially, the return to real-time communications on 15 September after the artificial delay.

Here is a short video about the whole mission simulation.

YouTube video: "Mars500 - 520 days in 15 minutes"

[ESA's Mars500 crewmembers Diego Urbina and Romain Charles recorded 15 video diaries from all phases of their simulated mission to Mars, plus hundreds of photos and other video clips. Most of these are available on ESA's Mars500 website (, but here is a compilation of their YouTube videos.]

This video shows the Mars exploration simulation.

YouTube video: "Walking the Red Planet: 'Mars 500' landing simulation"

[Almost nine months of isolation, training and preparation have finally paid off. Two astronauts have stepped out onto the Red Planet for the first time. Mars 500 may be a simulated mission, with the planet's surface recreated in the Moscow region, but the 'space walk' is monitored by Russia's real mission control.]

Here is a video about when the mission was accomplished.

YouTube video: "Mars 500, simulated mission accomplished"

[ After 520 days of total isolation in a mock spaceship, the Mars 500 crew were reunited with their loved ones in the outside world.]




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