Russia prepares for a manned flight to Mars too, despite the previous sad experience
The USA announced about preparations for the first manned flight to Mars long ago. The European Space Agency, the major colleague and competitor of NASA, also announced that a manned flight to the red planet was their priority goal. Russia has been silent about the issue so far. The crash of the Russian Mars-6 spacecraft (the craft blew up in 1996, soon after it took off) clipped the wings of Russia's Martian ambition. The fact that Russia was going to launch a spacecraft to Mars was a miracle back in those years. When it all failed, the country lost hundreds of millions of dollars, so any other attempts to conquer Mars became impossible for Russia even in theory against the tense social background.
Nevertheless, Russia has been preparing for a flight to Mars anyway. The Moscow-based Institute of Medical and Biological Research was founded in 1963. The institute was originally meant to work for Soviet space programs. Space is the first priority in the institute's activity, although it works on other issues too. However, a flight to Mars is the prime objective of the institute's research.
A manned flight to the red planet brings up a lot of questions. First and foremost, it is the question of radiation. The radiation in open space is different in comparison with the one on orbits. A flight to Mars will have to take place during a period of the active Sun, when the Sun's magnetic field reduces the radiation intensity. Secondly, there is a psychological problem too. A radio signal delay from the Earth will make up 40 minutes on the way to Mars. If an emergency occurs, a mission control on the Earth will not be able to help. A crew is supposed to make correct decisions alone: there will be no extra help provided, no emergency meetings, no extra cargoes, nothing.
Weightlessness poses a serious problem for cosmonauts' health too. The Mars's gravity is a lot less in comparison with the one of the Earth. However, it will be a very serious test after months of flying in space. If a cosmonaut comes back to Earth from the near-earth orbit, he has an opportunity to undergo the gravitation adaptation procedure. However, if a human being comes back to planet Earth from Mars, there will not be such an opportunity. Crewmen will have to keep up a very good shape during the whole flight. In addition to that, a crew will have to have a doctor that would be a specialist of all profiles: a surgeon, a psychologist, a dentist and so on.
All problems of the medical and biological character connected with a manned flight to Mars will be solved within the period of up to ten years. The Moscow institute has a special program to accomplish this goal; the institute will implement the program together with other Russian and foreign partners. For example, it is supposed to conduct a 500-day experiment together with the European Space Agency. The experiment is to model all stages of a mission to Mars: a flight to the planet, working on the Mars's surface and coming back to the Earth.
Deputy Director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Research, Valery Polyakov, believes that a manned flight to Mars will take place somewhere around the year 2020. Most likely, the scientist believes, it will be an international space program. Valery Polyakov said that all financial, technical, medical and other problems would most likely be settled by that time.