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European Volunteers to be isolated for 520 days on simulated Mars mission

Four Europeans vying to become guinea pigs for a 520-day simulated mission to Mars say they are proud to be putting their lives on hold for the sake of scientific advancement.

"I want to help humanity take a step forward by improving our level of knowledge," Belgian candidate Jerome Clevers, 28. said at the European Space Agency's (ESA) Dutch offices where he and his colleagues were introduced to the media. Diego Urbina, 26, of Italy added: "When the first humans step on Mars, I can say, 'Yeah, I helped do that.' And then we get to use cool space suits, which is also nice!"

The group will be locked away at the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow in an elaborate reconstruction that will include an interplanetary spaceship, a Mars lander and a Martian landscape . The experiment seeks to test the group's mental and physical ability to cope with living and working in an enclosed environment for an extended period of time.

The experiment will include a 250-day simulated trip to Mars, a 30-day Mars landing and stay, and a 240-day return "flight." "We want to gather lots of data, knowledge and experience to prepare for a real human mission to Mars," said ESA official Martin Zell.

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