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PARIS — The European Space Agency needs 12 volunteers with planetary vision who want to be on the cutting edge and aren't easily bored.
They will make a simulated mission to Mars that will last up to 520 days in "extreme isolation and confinement."
Despite the rigorous conditions, more than 2,000 applications have been received in two days, project manager Jennifer Ngo-Anh said Thursday.
"The reaction has been really overwhelming. My mailbox is full," she said.
Candidates must be citizens of one of 15 European countries or Canada, be highly motivated and speak English and Russian, among other requirements.
Unlike the adventurous spirits attracted to the desert island prospects of reality TV, only the "serious" need apply for this simulated interplanetary voyage, the space agency said. The payoff is likely less glamorous, too. Remuneration is "in line with international standards" for clinical studies, is all it would say.
The volunteers will investigate the "human factor" of a trip to the Red Planet — "a journey with no way out once the spaceship is on a direct path to Mars," ESA says.
The experiment will emphasize psychological factors, including stress resistance. The goal is to test how the volunteers hold up in nearly a year-and-a-half of close confinement with others and when communications with Earth can take 20 minutes — each way.
The simulation is to take place in a series of connected modules, mimicking life in a spacecraft on a trip to Mars, including once it has landed on the planet. The routine includes scientific experiments.
It doesn't include full-time weightlessness, however. "Except for weightlessness and radiation, the simulations will be as close to a real Mars mission as possible," the ESA said.
Living quarters will include 30-square-foot rooms for each crew member — and one toilet. No shower is included, and the water supply will be limited.
Food will be "predefined and carefully rationed," the ESA warns. Smoking and drinking are not allowed.
Special training that precedes the simulations will be as similar as possible to that given to astronauts, said Ngo-Anh.
Calls for candidates for the Mars mission went out Tuesday. Candidates must be 25 to 50 years old, in good health with work experience in one of several scientific fields, such as medicine, biology, computer engineering or mechanical engineering, the application says. Citizens of Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Britain and Canada will be considered.