- - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CAPE CANAVERAL — The International Space Station may provide the setting for a 500-day pretend trip to Mars in another few years.

NASA said Tuesday that consideration is under way to use the space station as a dry run for a simulated trip to and from Mars.

It would be patterned after Russia’s mock flight to Mars that lasted 520 days at a Moscow research center. Six men were involved in that study, which ended late last year. They were locked in a steel capsule.

NASA’s space station program manager Mike Suffredini said that before astronauts can fly beyond low-Earth orbit, they will have to spend more than six months aloft at a time. That is the typical stint for space station crews. Five hundred days is more than 16 months.

The human endurance record of 14 months was set by a Russian cosmonaut aboard the Mir space station in the mid-1990s. Only two others - both Russians - have spent as long as a full year in space.

No NASA astronaut has spent more than seven months in space on a single mission.

Mr. Suffredini said he doesn’t expect any such Mars simulation aboard the space station to occur any sooner than two to three years. Physical as well as psychological questions will have to be addressed before anything of that sort is attempted, he said.

Scientists and flight surgeons already are taking steps. The goal would be to have all the data in hand so the space station can be used as a Mars test bed before its projected demise in 2020 or thereafter.

UTAH

Woman, 101, paraglides into world record books

SALT LAKE CITY — A 101-year-old Utah woman soared into the record books Tuesday with a tandem paraglide ride last year to usher in her birthday.

Great-great grandmother Mary Hardison of Ogden was officially recognized as the “Oldest Female to Paraglide Tandem” by Guinness World Records. She has supplanted a 100-year-old woman from Cyprus who took her flight in 2007.

Mrs. Hardison flew with an instructor on Sept. 1 while four generations of her family watched and cheered. The flight went smoothly and even included a few tricks that Mrs. Hardison encouraged.

In a questionnaire submitted to Guinness, Mrs. Hardison said she wanted to paraglide because her 75-year-old son began doing it as a hobby. “I didn’t want him to do something that I couldn’t do,” Mrs. Hardison said.

Fear never entered the equation for Mrs. Hardison, who took all of the adult rides at Disneyland to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Story Continues →