After a year and a half locked up in a box, six 'astronauts' have finally finished their simulated trip to Mars.
The six Mars 500’s volunteers begain their simulation of a human mission to the Red Planet on 3 June last year, at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow. They 'landed' on Mars in January.
The crew of three Russians, one Chinese and two Europeans are in good shape, and the European Space Agency (ESA) says they've performed 'exceptionally well'.
"It is great to see you all again," said Diego Urbina, ESA’s Italian crewmember, after emerging.
"On the Mars500 mission we have accomplished on Earth the longest space voyage ever so that humankind can one day greet a new dawn on a distant but reachable planet."
Over the next few days, the crew will undergo extensive medical checks and psychological evaluation. But their mission won't truly be over until early December, as they go through an exhaustive series of debriefings, tests and evaluations to collect the mission’s final data.
During the mission, the team carried out various experiments, all linked to the problems of long-duration missions in deep space. They also experienced several mock emergencies.
During the trip, communications with Earth were delayed, to simulate a real Mars mission, and they lived on canned food, with just a single shower a week.
"Thank you very much for your outstanding effort," said ESA’s director general Jean-Jacques Dordain, after the crew stepped out of the module this morning.
"I welcome the courage, determination and generosity of these young people who have devoted almost two years of their lives to this project, for the progress of human space exploration."