Slowly but steadily, a crew of six "terranauts" emerged yesterday from the mock spaceship in a Moscow car park that had been their home for the past 17 months.
The multinational, all-male research crew were pale but smiling as they stepped from the pod where they had spent 520 days enduring a gruelling simulation of a full-blown space mission to Mars.
The six, including three Russians, were confined in the windowless pod to simulate the psychological stress associated with space travel. Scientists deem this to be more taxing than an actual flight, in which nervous tension would be offset by a rush of adrenaline. On leaving the pod, Diego Urbina, an Italian/Colombian member of the crew, said he and his fellow "terranauts" were proud to have endured the longest-ever simulation of space travel so that "humankind can one day greet a new dawn on the surface of a distant but reachable planet".