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Space crew to be bound to precise Earth-based pace during mission to Moon, says scientist

December 12, 2018, 17:09 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Lunar crews will consist of three members

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© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, December 11. /TASS/. A space crew that at some future date will be sent on a mission to the Moon will have to stick to a daily schedule cosmonauts follow on Earth, because any disruptions in the work-rest cycle would be fraught with the risk that the flight programs might fail to be accomplished properly, Dr. Sc. (Medicine) Svetlana Stepanova, of the Institute for Biomedical Problems, told the ongoing 17th space biology and medicine conference underway in Moscow.

"All attributes of life on Earth should be preserved on the Moon, too. Any shifts in sleep-wake cycles might upset the internal synchronization of the human body, causing desynchronosis - (disruption of the daily rhythm - TASS). The human body stops functioning as an integral system. This affects endurance at work, normal sleep rhythm, the central nervous system and the alimentary and cardio-vascular systems. The ability to distinguish between day and night is lost. Elementary mistakes become frequent and the time needed for decision-making increases, which is impermissible during a lunar expedition," Stepanova said.

"A strict work-rest cycle must be observed at all stages of the lunar program," she stated. In her opinion, during the flight to the Moon and work in its orbit or at a lunar base the cosmonauts must reserve about eight hours for sleep, six and a half hours for work and two and a half hours for physical exercise. The crew will have five working days and two days off.

"The individual who has a free-running daily pattern - eats, sleeps and works at will - inevitably drifts into a 25-hour-day cycle. The free-running daily cycle (also known as non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder - N24SWD) is not seen as an option possible for space flights," Stepanova stressed.

Overwork poses major risk during space missions

"On the ISS cosmonauts systematically have to work extra hours, which is the surest way of developing acute and chronic fatigue," she said. As follows from materials prepared for the conference, starting from the moment the Russian space program was converted to a two-man crew pattern the extra work load on each crew member quadrupled. A probe into the daily schedule of ten ISS expeditions consisting of three Russian cosmonauts found that overwork lasted 31 minutes a day.

Lunar crews will consist of three members. The first Russian manned mission to the Moon without landing on its surface is scheduled for 2023. A landing expedition is slated for 2028-2030, and a lunar base is expected to emerge and begin operating in 2040.

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