On paper, Yue Wang looks like the perfect recruit for an experiment in long-term space living. Astronaut trainer, 27 years old, medical degree. No wonder he was picked for Mars 500, a Russian-led simulation in which six volunteers—all men—will live in a chamber in Moscow for 17 months, pretending to be on a round-trip mission to the Red Planet.
And yet, at the moment he’s the early favorite to start banging on the hatch, demanding to be let out before his 520 days are up. Something about Wang we don’t know? Not really, says Ken Robertson, communications manager for the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, which is taking bets on the Mars 500 crew members’ chances of sticking out the longest space mission simulation ever conducted. It’s just that as a Chinese, Wang will be the most culturally isolated of the volunteers, three of whom are Russian and two of whom are European. So Paddy Power’s handicappers set his initial odds of quitting early at 2:1.
Diego Urbina, a 27-year-old Italian who has already done a shorter Mars simulation in Utah, started the Moscow sim at 5:2, slightly more likely to give up than 31-year-old French engineer Romain Charles (7:2). Russians Alexander Smoleevskiy (5:1), Sukhrob Kamolov (8:1), and Alexey Sitev (10:1) have decent odds of hanging in to the spirit-crushing end.
There are few wagers the bookmaker won’t take in the “novelty bets” category. Will the head of BP resign? What actor will be the next James Bond? Which celebrity will get pregnant next? (Beyoncé is 6:1; Lady Gaga, 33:1.)
For those who prefer something weightier, Paddy Power has a bet on the real space program. Starting odds have the Americans as 11:10 favorites to be the first nationality to walk on Mars, followed by the Chinese (7:4) and the Russians (5:2). The Irish are 500 to 1.
Beware of Rotorwash
Boeing has announced it will enter its V-22 tiltrotor in the competition to replace the presidential fleet of Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King helicopters (“Osprey at War,” Apr./May 2010), as well as its CH-47 Chinook, and, under license from Finmeccanica, the AgustaWestland AW101. The Washington Post’s Al Kamen reported on May 12 that Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information said that the Osprey, “when landing, will unleash high-speed sod clumps in all directions [and] will have the added — much to be desired — effect of scattering the White House press corps.” This was aptly demonstrated at a Staten Island park on Memorial Day, when a descending Marine Corps MV-22 tore branches from trees and stirred up mini-tornadoes of dirt and debris, causing minor injuries to 10 onlookers. “We came in over the trees,” said a crew member. “The next thing we see is a [picnic] blanket coming up in the air.”