At begin of June the final stage of the Mars500 misson was launched when six terrestrial Astronauts are sealed in a station simulating a space craft. The experiment of the Russian space agency Roskosmos and the European ESA simulates a manned flight to Mars as close to reality as possible without simulating the effects of micro gravity. During the 520 days of the "flight" mainly physiological and medical aspects are to be researched to ensure that Astronauts are well prepared for the mental as well as the physical challenges of a possible mission to Mars. On board will be a Galileo training device which will be used for training of the Astronauts during the flight as well as a Leonardo Mechanograph system to document training success and possible changes in muscle function. In Addition a pQCT System will be used to allow to document possible changes on bone and muscle after the mission.
The mission is hosted by a special research facility of the Institute for Medical and Biological Problems (IBMP) in Moscow. Since a flight to Mars including a stay on mars for up to two weeks is expected to take 520 days, the experiment it self is planned for the same duration. The daily routine as well as the daily work are matched as close to reality as possible.
Critical for the feasibility of a possible mission to Mars is to maintain muscle and bone of the Astronauts since they need to be able to perform the necessary tasks in the gravity field of Mars. In reality micro gravity results in severe problems during long term space missions. Muscle and bone is lost if the muscles of the legs do not need co carry around the body weight any more. Using conventional training methods it was up to now not possible to stop muscle and bone loss at the legs in Astronauts on long term missions.
To address this problem a modified Galileo Training system was used in the Berlin BedRest Studies (BBR1 and BBR2) conducted for the ESA and the Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) at the Centre for Muscle and Bone at the Charité in Berlin between 2003 and 2009. The Galileo Space Training device was designed especially to allow training of the "terrestrial Astronauts" during their rest phase in bed which lasted for 2 Months. The supervisor of both studies Professor Dieter Felsenberg sums up he results as follows: "This Training is up to now the most successful and effective method to prevent muscle and bone loss in long term space missions". The studies proved the effectiveness as well as the efficiency of Galileo Training. According to Felsenberg in order to use such a Galileo System e.g. on the International Space Station ISS only technical problems need to be addressed. One of them being the need to prevent the vibrations to act on the space station itself. But the group around Felsenberg together with the engineers of the Novotec Medical GmbH could already test a concept which solves these technical problems in a Parabolic flight mission of the DLR.
For a comprehensive documentation of the changes of the muscular-skeletal apparatus during the Mars500 mission the Leonardo Mechanograph system is used within the station continuously to document changes in muscle function. In addition a pQCT (peripheral Quantitative Computertomography) system is used to determine the precise changes in bone and muscle parameters before and after the mission.
The two space agencies thereby consequently implement the complete concept behind the systems of the Novotec Medical and Stratec Medizintechnik group. At the same time they rely on the efficiency as well as the durability of the products since hatches of the "terrestrial space ship" will stay closed for the complete 520 days of the mission. Hence maintenance or replacement of the systems will not be possible during this time.