Simulated Mars Mission Turned Astronauts Lazy

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

Simulated Mars Mission Turned Astronauts Lazy

image

A 17-month long experiment shows that the boring parts of space travel can really make you incredibly sleepy.

Many people think that humanity's next big step towards exploring the galaxy is sending a manned mission to Mars. But let's face it: Mars isn't exactly down the street, and it would take months for astronauts to reach the Red Planet in the first place. So to study what the effects of long-term space travel would have on a bunch of astronauts placed into a tiny confined space, six volunteers participated in the Mars500 mission, an Earth-based simulation in Moscow, Russia that sent them on a fake mission to Mars - and lasted over 520 days.

The experiment itself started way back in June 2010 and concluded in November 2011, but a recently published study of the experiment details how after living in a windowless "spaceship" for almost a year and a half with a severe lack of natural light and a monotonous daily routine, all six volunteers lost much of their motivation and energy. The report summarized that the volunteers suffered from hypokinesis, which is a fancy way of saying they ended up moving less and less during the course of the experiment. As the days wore on, the astronauts spent more of their time awake engaging in "restful activities", such as reading, watching movies or playing videogames than anything more productive. French flight engineer Romain Charles noted that as the days went on, it was harder for him to focus on more intellectually challenging tasks like brushing up on his Russian, and he felt more comfortable passing the time playing Counter-Strike instead.

The crew's wristwatches, which came equipped with light sensors, showed that as they became more and more lethargic, the crew actually began to avoid parts of their "ship" that had more lighting, and a few members developed severe sleeping problems. One astronaut was observed as being practically sleep-deprived the entire mission, and another appeared to be stuck on a 25-hour sleep cycle that often left him napping while everyone else was up and about. The crew didn't even really become as active and energetic as they were at the start of the experiment until its last few weeks when their isolation from the rest of the world was coming to an end.

While napping more than usual may not seem like it'd be a big deal here on Earth, it could prove to be hazardous during a long-term space mission, since astronauts most often need to be ready to act at all times in case of an emergency. Anyone planning to launch a mission to Mars - even if it's one way - would definitely have to plan for ways to keep their space-borne crew awake, active and moving during the whole ordeal, just in case they arrive at Mars and feel like watching a movie rather than exploring a whole other planet.

Source: Science Now
Image: ESA

Permalink

I'm not sure how this is a problem, because if I were an Astronaut, I know I wouldn't be all lazy and lethargic at the end of the journey when YOU'RE ABOUT TO BE THE FIRST HUMANS EVER TO STEP FOOT ON A FOREIGN PLANET IN HISTORY.

I dunno about the rest of you, but I'd be pretty fucking excited.

I think sitting inside any room with no natural light and not actually doing anything would make anyone lazy and lethargic...

I'm looking at you, yes you...

So, they devolved into college students? I mean, all that's missing are regular drunken binges. That and promiscuous sex, but then again, what happens on the Mars500 mission stays on the Mars500 mission... :p

Seriously, though, I'm guessing that the real trip would have a few extras to keep them on their toes. Like, say, the fact that you are FUCKING FAR AWAY in the VACUUM OF SPACE and if something goes wrong you get to die and nobody can come and help you. Oh, and for every thing that can go wrong during the trip there, you still have the trip back to look forward to. Then there's the whole "Go where no man has gone before!" thing. Between the excitement and the pants-shitting terror, I'd say lethargy would be the least of their worries. Oh, and I'm guessing they'd be doing fairly regular maintenance work both inside and outside the ship, which should suffice to break any tedium.

The problem with the experiment was that it was just a bunch of dudes in a small apartment left to play videogames and watch movies. No New Frontier, no Boundless Discovery, no Empty Infinite Void. Just Counterstrike and all the Jurassic Park movies. Over and over again...

they need to install some seasonal affective disorder Lights.
image

and maybe a fog machine, laser shows and extasy when even this should not work.

A Smooth Criminal:
I think sitting inside any room with no natural light and not actually doing anything would make anyone lazy and lethargic...

I'm looking at you, yes you...

How dare you my room has a window. Admittedly the curtain is drawn all the time but it's still there.

But seriously how much, "productive" activity do they have to do there. After all the maintenance and mission stuff is done for the the day what else is there to do. I guess during actual flight there would be a lot of exercise needed to prevent muscle atrophy.

*looks at photo*
Well THERE'S the problem! Anybody would be bored to death spending 520 days playing Wii games :P

What they need is people that are already lazy for this.
Like me, i may sit around the house doing nothing most of the time but i can be incredibly efficient when i need to be.

The problem, as with a lot of videogames, is immersion. If you're just on a triplay wood box that looks nothing like a spaceship, without a window to gaze upon the stars, and apparently without a schedule or a series of tasks. yeah, then anyone is bound to recede into a lazy bum. Is there any way to get their game list, there's bound to be some flaws there as well.

By the time we are able to get to Mars we'd have probably invented the kind of cryosleep that allows you to spend the entire journey under anyway. So they'd not have to worry about boredom and such.

Legion:
By the time we are able to get to Mars we'd have probably invented the kind of cryosleep that allows you to spend the entire journey under anyway. So they'd not have to worry about boredom and such.

You would still need a crew capable of maintaining the ship and being able to act if something goes wrong.

A significant factor is bone loss, which can be partially mitigated by exercise (which also helps prevent strength loss). Without the exercise regime, astronauts will waste away and become weak and fragile.

I have an idea. After the launch, tell the crew that one of them is a psychopathic killer who slipped onto the flight, and you have no idea which of them it is.

I guarantee you: excitement all the way to Mars and back.

They basically just kept describing my life right now. I guess I can compare being laid off to going on a journey to Mars.

Well... I guess that being stuck in a windowless "spacecraft" without the feeling of actually being in space would make anyone bored... I can smell a new reality show...

The idea of the first manned flight to Mars bringing along an Xbox or something is rather bizarre

Here is the solution: Send video game geeks.

If people like us are sent to Mars, there isn't a spiraling down effect, instead we'll play 17 months of videogames with friends, come out of it rested and refreshed, and proceed to colonize the whole of Mars. Downsides might be that there isn't enough storage space for all the necessary doritos and coke.

Jandau:

Seriously, though, I'm guessing that the real trip would have a few extras to keep them on their toes. Like, say, the fact that you are FUCKING FAR AWAY in the VACUUM OF SPACE and if something goes wrong you get to die and nobody can come and help you.

Pretty much my thoughts exactly. It'd be hard to simulate a real 17 month space flight when those involved are fully aware that nothing they do has any serious consequences. I would also like to know if the people involved in the experiment were actual astronauts (or I guess in Russia's case, Cosmonauts). Seeing as how real astronauts have the discipline to stay up in space (i.e. at the International Space Station) for months at a time, I'd imagine that they would have the discipline necessary to maintain their proper schedules and make sure all that they're ready for anything...because indeed, they know full well that even a minor problem can result in the death of everyone on board.

The problem with the experiment was that it was just a bunch of dudes in a small apartment left to play videogames and watch movies. No New Frontier, no Boundless Discovery, no Empty Infinite Void. Just Counterstrike and all the Jurassic Park movies. Over and over again...

Well if that's not a recipee for SPAAAAAAACE MAAAAAAADNESS!!!! then I don't know what is. :P

But seriously, just as Jandau said, this wasn't so much an experiment simulating the effects of a long trip to Mars, it's an experiment that simulates 5 people forced to live in a windowless, confined space for 17 months with jack-shit to actually do. I'm sure they were given little manuals and crap that had check-lists for actual stuff that would need to be done. But after that, you've got hours on end of nothing to do. This is what I'm talking about with real astronauts being important to the experiment. Real ones know that 1: they have to exercise every day to ensure their muscles to begin to atrophy, and 2: they have to be prepared for anything at all times.

I wonder if this experiment even bothered throwing some curve-balls at them like "OH SHIT! THE PORT ENGINE HAS FAILED AND WE'RE SLIDING OFF COURSE!!" or if it was just "Check to make sure blinking light is still blinking. It is. Go back to no-scoping with the AWAP." Which brings up the fact that I highly doubt online gaming will be an attention drain seeing as how on an actual mission they'll be in frickin' space." :P

I'm curious if there were any simulated tasks they had to perform because to me it sounds like they were put in a windowless room with videogames and movies and left alone.

They could have had some complications that the volunteers had to react to and see how they performed the tasks. Maybe something important breaks at the start of the experiment, then the middle, then the end and see how they react, guage their speed, efficiency, teamwork whatever and see if it declines/improves throughout the experiment.

The less you do the lazier you get, who would of thunked it. I usually support scientific research, but sometimes you just have to use common sense, besides I'm pretty sure there are millions of nerds around the word voluntarily already doing this experiment for years.

Frozengale:
They basically just kept describing my life right now. I guess I can compare being laid off to going on a journey to Mars.

I know, it feels like they've been observing me by mistake.

Throw in some women. Have them do stuff to impress them to win sexy prizes.

Blarkuntvhite:
The idea of the first manned flight to Mars bringing along an Xbox or something is rather bizarre

You do realise that a journey to Mars would take several months?

FFS, maybe there is something to the idea that education these days is being dumbed down... >.>

Haha, the comments on this page are funny. The human body relies on gravity and physical activity to work properly, that includes brain function. There is no such thing as a brain that can operate independent of the body so the body must be healthy. This is the biggest thing that prevents manned missions to mars. People seem to think the fact they are not in space on a momentous journey matters. It doesn't matter at all. The brain will shut down as time goes on. And with the muscular atrophy and bone loss from a zero gravity environment, it will happen even faster. Before the first manned moon mission (trying saying that five times fast), scientists surmised that the energy saved from not using the body would supercharge the brain. It seemed like all win, men to go the moon, they get smarter being in space, and they come home and everyone is better off. The reality is that a zero gravity environment turned them into lethargic lumps after only 8 days in zero g. They couldn't walk unassisted at all when they got back. If you were to sleep for that time, you would still be able to get up and walk on your own (not without a little discomfort, mind you). And their IQ's tested lower after touch down as well. Combine that with little to no way to mentally stimulate the astronauts in such a small environment and you have an impossible mission.

My boss has the idea the best. Build a mobile space station that will travel slower but give the opportunity for more activity and mentally stimulating activities. Even if you build it and it take 8-10 years for the journey, it would still be a much better proposition. They would still need to find a way to stimulate some sense of gravity though. I mean, massive rotating sections may not be possible, but certainly are a step in the right direction.

17 months of nothing in an enclosed space? That's almost enough to finish a total war campaign!

Wait, hold on. Why can't they have natural light? Can't the invest in space windows? I mean, they still get starlight shining on them, right? Or would that be disorienting?

I thought they'd have some sort of look out. And they aren't allowed to put on spacesuits to wander about outside? That'd be good exercise, right?

I don't understand how space missions work. I thought for sure there'd be exercise and windows, though.

Andy of Comix Inc:
Wait, hold on. Why can't they have natural light? Can't the invest in space windows? I mean, they still get starlight shining on them, right? Or would that be disorienting?

I thought they'd have some sort of look out. And they aren't allowed to put on spacesuits to wander about outside? That'd be good exercise, right?

I don't understand how space missions work. I thought for sure there'd be exercise and windows, though.

They could just have windows, sure. If they wanted to die from radiation poisoning and/or cancer. Sure, people can space walk in suits, but their exposure is measured in minutes, not months.

Also, how is floating around in zero G good exercise?

Denamic:

Andy of Comix Inc:
Wait, hold on. Why can't they have natural light? Can't the invest in space windows? I mean, they still get starlight shining on them, right? Or would that be disorienting?

I thought they'd have some sort of look out. And they aren't allowed to put on spacesuits to wander about outside? That'd be good exercise, right?

I don't understand how space missions work. I thought for sure there'd be exercise and windows, though.

They could just have windows, sure. If they wanted to die from radiation poisoning and/or cancer. Sure, people can space walk in suits, but their exposure is measured in minutes, not months.

Also, how is floating around in zero G good exercise?

Cos they did it in 2001.

Also, I did say Space Windows. Not glass windows. Make it so the windows are futuristic and not let in deadly radiation. Problem solved probably!

A Smooth Criminal:
I think sitting inside any room with no natural light and not actually doing anything would make anyone lazy and lethargic...

I'm looking at you, yes you...

you caught me.

OT: well, now they know and can prepare the next test i guess. these results seem to be about as expected.

A Smooth Criminal:
I think sitting inside any room with no natural light and not actually doing anything would make anyone lazy and lethargic...

I'm looking at you, yes you...

yes, and please tell me how to voilonteer, i want to be the next guinea pig in such an experiment. its heaven. you cna sit on your ass whole day playing games and watching movies.

BlazeRaider:
17 months of nothing in an enclosed space? That's almost enough to finish a total war campaign!

or a civ 2 game.....

disgruntledgamer:
The less you do the lazier you get, who would of thunked it. I usually support scientific research, but sometimes you just have to use common sense, besides I'm pretty sure there are millions of nerds around the word voluntarily already doing this experiment for years.

i would, but the food isnt going to buy itself, so i need work :(

Is this really a good example of what would happen, though? What are the chances that there would ONLY be one person going at a time? Or that they'd be locked out of each others modules? Or that they'd be unable to interact with the rest of the crew? If there's only ONE dude left, things are already fucked to hell, and there's no way (except in some science fiction movies) that he's going to survive on his own on Mars.

Why do I suddenly have to think of the movie Dark Star, where exactly that became a problem as well. Expect that in the movie, they didn't have much more entertaiment, then there would have been in 1980. XD

"Let's have some music in here Boiler! Sure thing!"

Yep, months in a enclosed area, and they could not even get stuff from the shop around the corner. ;D

Would be allright if you got wifi

so being space makes you lazy i need to become an astronaut i already got the lazy thing down.

To all those saying that the excitement of exploring space, combined with the desire to keep themselves alive, would keep them active during those long months: I disagree.

For an example - Soldiers in Afghanistan who have to deal with IEDs (or bombs, if you prefer) nearly every day for 6 months manage to get bored by this to the point that they start making mistakes and getting killed - Literally, they get bored of looking for things that are trying to kill them, things they know are there and that they find all the time.

Now, obviously astronauts are going to be more switched on than the average squaddie, but you put anybody in any situation for an extended period without giving them a bit of a change, and eventually they will get bored of it and lose motivation.

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here