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by Boris Pavlishchev
Moscow, Russia (Voice of Russia) Aug 29, 2012
After dropping plans to return to the Moon, the American space agency NASA has set its sights on Mars. But before venturing there, it is going to test out its latest interplanetary technologies during a manned mission to Asteroid Itokawa, expected to take place before 2025.
Dr Igor Lisov is a Russian spaceflight expert: "The Itokawa mission will travel on board the Orion spaceship, which is unlikely to be operational before 2019. NASA plans to use the intervening seven years for practising aspects of this mission on a variety of simulators. In 2005, Itokawa was studied in some detail by a Japanese probe.
"It is a 530-metre potato-shaped rock with a very uneven gravitational field. Accordingly, studying the conditions on it could be helped by computer simulation."
A simulation exercise of this kind is currently under way in a big hangar at NASA's centre in Houston. The trainees are 'orbiting' Itokawa, 'approaching' it, 'touching down' and carrying out 'surface walks' - everything with the help of a computerized simulator equipped with a giant screen. The 'walks', which include 'hovering', are being carried out with the help of hammocks and 3D goggles.
In June, a team of American, European and Japanese astronauts practised Itokawa walks by carrying out scuba ventures from board the Aquarius sea lab, which is resting on the seabed off Florida at a depth of about 19 metres. For collecting rock samples, they attached themselves to the bottom with ropes and hooks.
In Moscow last autumn, six international volunteers successfully completed a mock mission to Mars. They had spent 520 days in complete isolation on space-type life support. Russia, too, is mulling a manned marsshot.
Source: Voice of Russia
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