At 1 PM yesterday in Moscow, three astronauts from the European Space Agency's 520-day simulated trip to Mars finally touched down on a 10 meter by 6 meter recreation of the planet's Gusev Crater. From the ESA:
This Mars is housed in the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, on the next storey up above the cylindrical modules housing the Mars500 crew. Six men have been already been isolated for more than eight months during the first full-duration simulated flight to Mars.
Three of the crew, Russian Alexandr Smoleevskiy, Italian Diego Urbina and Chinese Wang Yue, entered the lander on 8 February and they ‘landed' on Mars four days later [...]
The next sortie, by Alexandr and Yue, will be on 18 February, followed by the last, again by Alexandr and Diego, on 22 February.
Indeed, it took the Mars500 team 8 months to go up a couple flights of stairs. After the three crew members stay in the 6.3 x 6.17 meter lander for 16 days, they will leave Mars in early March and then spend another 8 months in isolation en route to "Earth." The simulation is designed to test the psychological and spatial challenges astronauts would confront on a real trip to the Red Planet. If faced with the prospect of spending another 8 months in isolation with the same five dudes after visiting a warehouse's worth of movie-set Mars. I'd take my helmet off and let fake death take its toll. I'd want to be the fake Tim Robbins of the gang.