Russian 'boffins' are halfway through an experiment
to test the effects of close confinement on a team of volunteers as preparation for sending a manned flight to Mars.
Three Russians, a Chinaman, Italo-Columbian, and a Frenchman have just 'stepped' onto Mars - a sandpit - after eight months living an isolated existence on a secure double-height train carriage in West Moscow.
Now, while Yours Truly has ventured out of Moscow on a train and can vouch for the tedious and lengthy journeys encountered by our former Red Flag enthusiasts (although it took a mere six days - living in splendid isolation with a Chinaman, a Malteser, two Frenchmen and a Pakistani cricket speculator - to get to Vladivostok in Siberia), he doesn't understand quite why the Russian scientists went to all this trouble and bothered with this pyschological experiment.
Allegedly the aim was to see how the space volunteers would cope doing repetitive tasks every day, confined to living in a small space with little contact with the outside world. Yet it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that 'scientists' are entirely likely to get bored, take it out on
each other and generally act in ways predicted by purveyors of
second-rate sci-fi the world over - ie, one would go mad and put the mission in jeopardy by killing off the others one by one.
It strikes Guru that it would have been a lot cheaper to simply visit a toilet-making facility in the Mosel Valley, where he witnessed the human workers confined to rubbing down specific edges of pottery toilet bowls each day (1 out of 10 on the excitement scale), while shiny robots took the glamour jobs of actually making the semi-automatic flush lavatory bowls, putting on the handles (excitement value 6 out of 10) and then moving them around the warehouse (8 out of 10 due to amount of physical exertion).
The Turkish Germans involved in all this toilet making seemed happy enough, and would retire each night to the Teutonic equivalent of a Japanese lovehotel, sharing facilities with 42 other people and sleeping in rotas in a space big enough to store several crates of oranges.
Yours Truly recalls they were bribed with beer and fags to keep them going after their lunchtime bratwurst and the quality of the rims suffered accordingly.
However, when he questioned them about their seemingly monotonous jobs, the uneducated Turks were all remarkably cheerful - grateful for the experience and looking forward to another exciting day living on the edge (of the toilet bowl).
So Guru's advice to the Russians is simple. Ditch the experiment and just outsource the recruitment process to a gangmaster who could unearth some poorly educated migrant workers to carry out the tasks on the space flight. In addition to being so docile they could never muster enough energy for mid-space conflict, the workers would also be nicely expendable. And if they did encounter an alien lifeform, they would be too tired to cause any conflict and the universe could continue living in peace. (OK, that last bit is a bit Star Trek, but loyal readers will understand Guru's devotion to peace and understanding.)