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ESA to take part in Russian Mars experiment

MOSCOW, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - The European Space Agency has decided to take part in a Russian simulated flight to Mars, and two Europeans could be among the volunteers, a Russian scientist said Tuesday.

The Institute of Medical and Biological Issues in northern Moscow, the venue for the Mars-500 experiment that will last 520 days, has received applications from more than 120 people from 21 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Spain, Estonia, and Bulgaria.

"During talks, an agreement was reached on the participation of ESA experts in the formation and implementation of all scientific experiments on board 'the Martian ship'," Institute spokesman Mark Belakovsky said.

"In addition, the Europeans have asked us to book two seats for their volunteers out of the six in the international crew that will spend more than 500 days in isolation conditions very near those of a real flight to Mars," he said.

"Applicants must be 25 to 50 years old and have a higher education to qualify for the experiment," the scientist said earlier, adding that extra points during the selection will be awarded to doctors, biologists and engineers. He also said applicants must have a good knowledge of English for professional and routine communication.

The winners will spend 250 days "en route" to Mars. Three of them will then simulate a landing on Mars in a 30-day trip, and the "return" voyage will take another 240 days. Throughout the experiment, the crew will keep in touch with mission control via e-mail.

Life during the expedition will not be easy, as rations will be similar to those on board the International Space Station, and smoking and drinking will be prohibited.

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