Today 6 men will be locked in a small space capsule together for three months to test the psychological effects of a prolonged space flight. Because a trip to Mars might take a year and a half to three years, this test just scrapes the surface of the potentially harrowing experience of living in a tiny space with five relative strangers for years.

To enhance the realism of the test, the test subjects - including Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergei Ryazansky, along with two Europeans and two other Russians - will have all the food and supplies they need packed in with them. They can bring personal effects like books, DVDs, and laptops, but all communications with the outside world will be time-delayed by 20 minutes, just as they would be if their ship were in Martian orbit.

Each "astronaut" will have a tiny personal space to sleep in, and the ship comes equipped with three rooms. One is for medical isolation, one for food supplies, and one for "living," including the six personal spaces and an exercise area. The entire "ship" is 19,500 cubic feet.

The crew will often wear biosensors so that researchers can monitor their brain activity. If this test is successful, NASA will start a test at the end of the year to isolate 6 people for 520 days.

Despite the fact that men and women have been living together on the ISS for years, no women are being tested. Huh? Apparently international space agencies are expecting sexist policies to continue for at least two decades into the future, when a crewed Martian flight is planned.

via Yahoo! News