Doctors find space for stress

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The Independent Online
WITH FOOD and water dwindling aboard the space station Mir, three Russians yesterday clambered into a metal capsule in a Moscow laboratory to endure four months of space rations, unpleasant surprises and stress - human guinea pigs in a parallel programme for earth-bound endurance.

The ordeal is designed to simulate all the pressures of space, including anxiety and fear, said scientists at the Institute of Bio-Medical Problems, a once top-secret research facility set up in 1963 to examine the problems of space travel.

The test, they say, will help in the selection and training of astronauts to help them survive crises like that now threatening to cut food delivery to the Mir station.

The supply ship Progress- 24 has failed twice this week to dock with Mir and will make a final attempt later today. Another failure would force astronauts to cut short their mission and disrupt future flights.

'I think there are real ways to simulate danger and there are real ways to improve the reaction of human beings to stressful situations,' said Anatoly Grigoriev, the institute's director.

'They are going to face some severe stress,' he said of the three volunteers who yesterday boarded a mock- up of the Mir station at the institute's laboratory. 'There will be some surprises.'

The three 'human subjects' are themselves all medical doctors. In the past, though, the laboratory has been criticised for going too far in its research.