Okay, they didn’t actually go anywhere. The crew of six men, including three Russians, one Chinese and two Europeans, have spent the past 520 days enclosed in a research facility at the Moscow Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow. The purpose of the project, dubbed Mars500, was to see what effect the prolonged periods of isolation required to undergo a journey to Mars would have on astronauts. The six volunteers emerged with smiles and assurances that they were ready for the real thing.
Once sealed inside the facility, the crew’s only contact with the outside world was through communications with ‘mission control’, which were artificially delayed to simulate transmission over great distances. The 17 months ‘away’ included long stretches of confinement to the spacecraft interrupted by one brief interval when the crew were able to don spacesuits and simulate a stroll around the Martian surface.
During their confinement, the crew conducted over a hundred experiments, including many on their motivation and psychological wellbeing. The results thus far look promising for individuals attempting an actual journey to Mars.
You can view mission diary entries here. Below are a couple of examples:
The first 'Marswalk' by Diego Urbina and Alexandr Smoleevskiy on February 14, which lasted one hour and 12 minutes (but don't worry, the video is less than four minutes long).
And a typical housecleaning day. I wish my house was that clean!