Staying Sane in Space; March 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Simpson; 2 Page(s)
Andy Thomas knew he was in for a rough ride the moment he floated into the entrance module of the Mir space station. "It was like going down into a dark mine shaft, pulling myself along a bungee cord between bags of equipment," the Australian-born astronaut recalls. The crawlway eventually opened into a compartment the size of a Winnebago, where coffee stains dotted the ceiling and walls in areas not already strewn with metal boxes, books and tangled hoses: home to Thomas and two cosmonauts for the next five months of 1998.
That experience was a weekend getaway compared to a round-trip Mars mission, during which astronauts would be cooped up in a capsule for up to eight months at a time and isolated from the rest of the world for two and a half years. Seeing the same few faces day after day, enduring the ills and disorientation of weightlessness, never having a moment alone-marriages and families fall apart over much less. Going to Mars should be one of humanity's greatest adventures, but it could turn into a humiliating fiasco unless mission planners devise ways to keep the space explorers from driving one another crazy.