Mars 500 Crew on June 3, 2010. ESA/IBMP - Oleg Voloshin.
On June 3, the third phase of the Russian Mars mission simulation, Mars 500, began. The experiment involves a crew of six - three Russians, a Chinese astronaut, a French engineer and an Italian-Columbian engineer, who will live together in a sealed habitat for 520 days. The habitat is located at the Institute for Biomedical Problems at Moscow State University. Official sites are following the mission's progress here and here.
The Times is labeling Mars 500 'A Mission to Nowhere.' The BBC is less acerbic, noting that the mission will test the psychological strain on the participants who, in addition to their isolation and cramped conditions, will be deprived of sunlight and fresh air. The mission also will conduct numerous scientific tests of their environment, including maintaining a greenhouse, investigating the kinds of bacteria that flourish, and a simulation of landing on the Red Planet. France 24 news report:
The mention of the greenhouse reminds me of that 1972 movie Silent Running, with Bruce Dern and the three robots.
Other experiments simulating research station conditions are being conducted through the Mars Analogue Research Station Program, maintained by the Mars Society.