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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
No women on Mars trip
Mars, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope
A Russian mission to Mars could take place in 20 years
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

Women are likely to be barred from any Russian mission to Mars because they would increase the "probability of conflicts" among the crew, says a Russian space official.

Mars Global Surveyor
Nasa's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft is scanning the Red Planet
Anatoly Grigoryev, Director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, says that such a mission, if funded, could take place between 2015-2020, but there would be many potential problems.

Among them is the composition of the crew for the three-year mission. According to Dr Grigoryev there would be four or five people going: a commander, a pilot, a doctor and scientists.

But probably no women. Dr Grigoryev says that a single-sex crew is likely to be more "serene" with a lower probability of conflicts.

Space brawl

Although their space effort is stretched and grossly underfunded, some Russian space experts still have big dreams and hopes that when things get better they may have a thriving, independent, space programme once more.

"The manned flight to Mars is a super-task," says Dr Grigoryev, "but it is quite workable technically. Certainly, there are still details to be worked on for the next few years."


A food reserve for two years will take up too much space, so it cannot be carried from Earth. The cosmonauts will have to grow their own food.

Anatoly Grigoryev
He believes that the basic plan for a manned Mars mission has been worked out.

It would consist of a number of rocket launches to assemble a large spacecraft in Earth-orbit. It would take nine months to travel to Mars where a small landing craft would touch down on the Red Planet.

After three months on the surface, there would be another nine-month trek back.

"The food question is serious," Dr Grigoryev says. "A food reserve for two years will take up too much space, so it cannot be carried from Earth. The cosmonauts will have to grow their own food."

Space quails

To this end, the Institute for Medical and Biological Problems has conducted a series of experiments on the now defunct Mir space station.

But those experiments only raised quails and grew wheat. Much more work on providing food in space needs to be done.


Everything may happen within two years of the flight: from appendix problems to a brawl

Anatoly Grigoryev
According to Dr Grigoryev, the crew for the long Mars mission will have to be selected differently from the way Russia currently selects its spacefarers.

They will have to be screened more thoroughly to see how they would cope with being so far away from Earth, living closely with several others for so long.

"Everything may happen within two years of the flight: from appendix problems to a brawl," he says.

But if Dr Grigoreyev's views hold sway; the fights will not be about women.

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See also:

09 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Mars landing nears
20 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Landing site chosen for Mars mission
23 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Mir falls to Earth
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