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Participating in experiment in Moscow
Subjects just before entering the chamber
Isolation chamber where test subjects are staying
Example of food
Work area inside the chamber
NASDA has been participating in the Long-Term Isolation Test in Mixed Cultures being conducted in Moscow, Russia, by the Institute of Biomedical Problems since last July. The purpose of the Test is to study the adaptability of Japanese astronauts to isolated, mixed cultural circumstances in anticipation of their actual participation aboard ISS in the near future. Specifically, the Test will evaluate the mental and physical stress generated by long-term stays in isolation with people of various cultures and will investigate methods of reducing mental stress. Institutions from 10 countries including space agencies from Japan, Russia, the USA and Canada are participating in this test. Test Subjects in this experiment are divided into several groups, long-term stay group 1 (240 days), long-term stay groups 2 and 3 (110 days) and short-term stay groups 4 and 5 (seven days). Each group consists of four test subjects. Japanese test subjects will participate in groups 3 and 5. Groups 2 and 4 have finished their stays. At present, groups 1 and 3, a total of eight people, Japanese, Austrian, Canadian, and Russian test subjects of different cultural backgrounds, are undergoing the test. Japanese test subjects will also participate in group 5 (short-term stay) that will begin its testing this February. The Isolation Test will continue until 22 March. The isolation facility simulates the environment aboard Russia's Space Station Mir and is divided into three chambers. The chamber where the Japanese subjects are currently staying has a floor area of about 90 square meters, including private rooms, a toilet, a dining room, a living room, and a shower. The test schedule allows the participants to take two days off per week. On week days, subjects awake around 7AM, have breakfast, then begin research activities. After lunch, they do physical exercise and have health checks, and they have free time after supper until around 11PM when they usually go to bed. This is the flow of activities in a typical day. The meals do not consist of space food, but rather freeze-dried foods and canned foods that can be stored for a long time. The foods are delivered once a month to simulate life aboard the ISS. During their free time, the subjects can watch TV and send e-mail, and on weekends they can telephone friends and family members.

ISS and post-ISS plans
Long-term stays in isolation with the people of different cultures will certainly generate mental stress in test subjects. To evaluate the mental and physical health of test subjects, researchers will study stress hormones in urine and conduct psychological tests to determine the causes of stress and changes in stress levels. Furthermore, work efficiency and accuracy will be evaluated by using computerized test batteries. For the psychological support of Japanese test subjects, periodic counseling and communication with their family members are available through a video-telephone system. Until now, astronauts have had only short-term stays in space, so mental stress has not been a serious problem. However, things will be different aboard the ISS where a mission may last three to six months. Long-term stays in isolation cannot be avoided for further space development such as ISS and manned exploration of the Moon and Mars. This Test is thus expected to yield very valuable data that will help to improve the ways to maintain the health of astronauts on long-term stays in space.

Last Updated : May 15, 2000

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