The most outrageous, and perhaps the most elegant space mission ever conceived of, is about to be launched in Russia. The Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in collaboration with Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, have announced the start of project “Moon-2015” comprised exclusively lady cosmonauts.
Ten female participants are going to be a part of this first ever experiment, but only six of them will participate from the mission’s launch until its completion. Our Russia was fortunate enough to talk with IBMP press secretary, Oleg Voloshin, and the “Moon-2015” participants. What you are about to read is a cosmically charged story where these extraordinary ladies share their experiences and their aspirations on a most courageous project of Russian space scientists. Here is our Q & A with this extraordinary group of scientists.
Our Russia: What criteria were used for selecting ladies for the simulated "moon mission"? Was it a tough competition?
Oleg Voloshin: In answer to your first qustion, this experiment was created with young people in mind. In order to select the participants we spread a call within our Institute, the first who reacted became the first lucky participants of our project. Frankly speaking, there was no competition really, as almost all the participants (except for one) work at our Institute. Besides this, all of the 10 participants are going to be a part of the experiment with the youngest of them being 25, and the oldest experiment participant being 35.
Our Russia: How long has the training for the mission been going on?
Oleg Voloshin: We came out with the idea of the experiment last year after dozens of brainstorming sessions, meetings and briefings. It was then started preparations. However, active training begins this Fall closer to the start of the experiment, when participants will have to learn experimental techniques that they will use during their isolation. Yet, not all tests will be taken within the framework of mission “Moon -2015”, some will be implemented throughout our further projects.
Our Russia: What if the mission proves to be successful? Will there be further steps regarding real "all" women space expedition be taken or not?
Oleg Voloshin: I may a bit self assured, but we’re almost certain mission “Moon-2015” will be successful. Further steps are already well-planned including a number of isolation experiments with different duration periods and crew members. However, we are not exactly sure whether it will be entirely male of female crews, as the final mission demands and decisions are driven by Roscosmos.
Our Russia: Is this a fully government-sponsored project? What non-commercial and non-governmental organizations are involved in it (if any)?
Oleg Voloshin: This is not a commercial project. The concept of the project emerged in our Institute, and the project is fully sponsored by the Institute’s budget. Moreover, all the participants take part in this project on a voluntary basis, and will not be paid for their participation. All this, I believe, proves the patriotism everyone involved in the project feels. However a few Russian companies are going to be sponsors of the project such as “Dinafors”, that designs the official space costumes for the mission. Also, information agency TASS will also be our media partner.
Our Russia: Do any of the participants in this mockup mission consider themselves candidates for the real mission?
Oleg Voloshin: Yes, one of our mission participants, Natalya Lysova, is going to become a true cosmonaut. She’s already signed up for the Russia’s cosmonaut corps.
On a personal note here, as we talk to Oleg I feel more excited about this “Moon mission”, and at the same time I am quite curious and apprehensive about safety measures and the project’s adjustment for emergency situations that may occur during the participants isolation. I also envision my own spirit of romance, and realize a rush of thrill and excitement thinking of such a space excursion. I wonder if the mission ladies feel the same at times...
Then as Voloshin gives a clear explanation, all my doubts and apprehension fly away;
“Any manned experiment, especially the one that involves isolation, includes the participant’s agreement on leaving the experiment at any of its stages. Besides that, a test person has to pass through the requirements of the medical commission, and these tests are as stringent as the requirements for cosmonauts. The presence of a specially trained doctor on board, the capabilities of various diagnostic equipment such as in use on International Space Stations, and other contingencies ensure proper safety. As would be the case in space, an emergency will not end the project. Instead, an individual participant that might have psychological or physical problems will be evacuated, and the rest of the participants will consider her as dead. We had the same experience during the project “Mars-500 that lasted for 520 days in the period of 2007-2011”.
Carrying on with Our Russia's space mission interviews, we asked the participants off the mission to answer two questions : “What does your contribution to this research mean to you?” and “What are the greatest fears of the participants considering a real mission?” Here are the responses we received.
“What does your contribution to this research mean to you?”
“I’ve worked in this Institute for about 10 years and for us young scientists, it has always been interesting to experience things personally, physically. The influxes, the techniques, the sensations… I’ve been inside the hyperbaric chamber and I’ve experiences breathing different gases etc. I must say, it feels pretty strange to look at yourself as at the research object. To be locked in an isolated room, to be away from the relatives and family, to ask questions all the continually, it all seems easy now. And by the way, no country can develop fully without such science and research, in the end we want to show the world how prestigious it is to be a scientist.” - Anna Kussmaul
"For me, as a doctor it is important to watch the experiment from the medical point of view. I work closely with the senior doctor and learn a lot about the experiment from the practical side: the provision of the medicaments, check-ups of the crew, operating with different tools and equipment." - Dr. Inna Nosikova
"I guess one of the key parts of the experiments is to see the unique technology of the equipment. It is going to be a tough check-up of our facilities and methods." - Daria Schastlivtseva
“What are your greatest fears when considering a real mission?”
"I am not nearly worried for my health and safety as I am going excited and honored to experience things I’ve never tried in my life, such as the centrifuge ride and isolation. I only hope the experiment will be successful, and that our efforts will lead to greater discoveries." - Polina Kuznetsova
"If we speak about fears, the only fear I have is not to meet the expectations of my colleagues, and to fail to cope with the emergency situations on board. However, since we work in the Institute that has a long history of complex research and experiments, we are surrounded by some of the world's top specialists who will provide the best training possible." - Tatiana Shigueva
The extraordinary women are experts in the fields of physiology, psychology, cardiology, ecology, biological physics, and genetics. Also, unlike their contemporaries, the men of the Mars 500 project, the motivation for the ladies is different in that their's is a patriotic sacrifice. The men were paid for their endeavors in the previous project, but the women of this mission experiment have taken the high ground ideologically. Six of these ten women will climb aboard their mock up space craft soon to help provide Russia's space program with vital data as to how the female of the species responds mentally and physically to simulated conditions. The mission will approximate the time and situations cosmonauts will encounter in a full orbital mission there and back. And while I did not ask the logical question, the gravity of it forces me to here. "Is the mission objective for Russia to put the first woman on the Moon?" Well, avoiding the obvious, let me leave the reader with something from Jules Verne from his magically intuitive "From the Earth to the Moon".
“How many things have been denied one day, only to become realities the next!”