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(Reuters) - Here are some facts about Mars and missions to the Red Planet as Russia opened the hatch on an isolation study on Friday:
-- The isolation experiment simulated a 520-day mission to Mars. Six volunteers were locked away in windowless cells since June 2010. The $15-million Mars500 experiment is the first full-duration simulation of a manned flight to Mars.
* The crew was hermetically isolated.
* After 250 days the crew was divided in half, three sent to a Martian surface simulator and three kept in the 'spacecraft'.
* Crew lived and worked like astronauts on International Space Station.
* Crew worked a seven-day week with two days off, except when special and emergency situations were simulated.
* Crew were monitored and their psychological, medical and physical signs recorded.
-- In 2009 four Russians, a Frenchman and a German ended an earlier simulated 105-day space trip in Moscow designed to test their responses in the kind of isolated surroundings they would experience in a manned mission to Mars.
MARS EARTH Average Distance from the sun 142 mil miles 93 mil miles Average Speed in Orbiting Sun 14.5 m. per sec 18.5 m. per
sec. Diameter 4,220 miles 7,926 miles Length of Year 687 Earth Days 365.25 Days Length of Day 24 hrs 37 mins 23 hrs 56
mins. Temperature Average -81 degrees F 57 degrees F
-- Last month, NASA unveiled $10 billion plans to build a giant deep-space rocket to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit after 2017 for missions to the Moon, an asteroid or Mars.
-- NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory, a robotic science laboratory being prepared for a November 25 launch, is to land in August 2012 near a mountain in a crater on the planet most like Earth in the solar system.
-- One of a pair of Mars rovers that arrived for concurrent three-month surveys in January 2004 is still working. Its twin succumbed to the harsh Martian environment in 2010. They returned evidence that Mars was once far wetter and warmer than the dry, cold desert that exists today.
-- In November 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander, which made history by finding definitive proof of water on the Red Planet, lost contact with Earth, effectively ending its more than five-month mission, NASA said.
- On November 9, Russia hopes to end a 20-year hiatus from deep space with the launch of an ambitious, three-year mission to scoop a soil sample from the surface of the Martian moon Phobos.
Sources: Reuters/NASA/www.esa.int (Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)