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    Five volunteers picked for simulated Mars mission in Russia

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    Five volunteers have been selected for a simulated Mars mission, expected to be launched in Russia late next year, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency said Friday.

    MOSCOW, December 29 (RIA Novosti) - Five volunteers have been selected for a simulated Mars mission, expected to be launched in Russia late next year, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency said Friday.

    "The Russian Institute of Medical and Biological Studies has completed the selection of participants for the Mars-500 experiment," Igor Panarin said. "There are five of them, all are male, and they come from Russia as well as other countries."

    More than 150 volunteers, including 16 women, applied to take part in the experiment from countries as far apart as Ukraine, Spain, India, Australia and the United States.

    The successful candidates will spend 520 days inside an experimental module set up on the institute's premises, including 250 days "en route" to Mars, 30 days on the Red Planet's surface and 240 days on a journey "back to Earth."

    They will experience the daily routine of professional astronauts, including medicals, workouts and maintenance of station equipment, and will have to cope with simulated emergency situations, arising both from human error and equipment failure.

    The European Space Agency has expressed an interest in contributing to the project, including research and financial support.

    Russia also plans to launch a Mars probe in the next decade. Martian soil samples it will bring back will give scientists a better idea of the Red Planet's chemical composition.

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