Thanks to a strange NASA-funded experiment currently underway in Moscow, a handful of people, including two Americans, do not know that a war is happening outside of their walls.
NASA locked the six people inside a sealed capsule in Moscow for eight months as part of a space mission simulation. The mission is called SIRIUS 21.
The Americans — William Brown, 36, and Ashley Kowalski, 32 — have lived inside the capsule alongside four other civilians since November. The capsule also includes three Russians and an Emirati citizen.
According to NASA, the experiment means to test human psychology in confined spaces. “SIRIUS 21 will include almost 70 different studies that will help scientists learn more about the effects of isolation and confinement on human psychology, physiology, and team dynamics.”
What does the NASA experiment look like for participants in Moscow?
NASA is conducting the study alongside IMBP, Russia’s state-sponsored scientific research center. Three women and three men compose the SIRIUS 21 team inside the pod.
Unless NASA pulls the plug, the participants will not emerge from the capsule until July. The experiment takes place in a Soviet-era building, and the participants are allowed no contact with the outside world except through audited letter uploaded to a secure server. On Sunday, the U.S. State department issued a warning to all American citizens living in Russia to seek refuge immediately.
NASA has not commented publicly about the final few months of the operation; but it is assumed that they intend to complete the duration.
Nathan Crane, a friend of Brown’s, told reporters that he last heard from Brown before Russia invaded Ukraine last week. “I was in contact with him last week about it. And he knows it likely happening, though I am unsure about how much he knows at this point,” Crane said of Brown.
“I haven’t heard back from him since the last letter which makes me wonder,” Crane continued. “[Maybe] the Russian side is holding letters from them so they don’t find out more about the atrocities happening in Ukraine.”
The IMBP initially shared many photos of the experiment and its participants on an Instagram page. The pictures showed the participants enjoying Christmas and New Year’s celebrations together in their close confines. However, the Russian agency has not posted new pictures to the page since Jan. 16.
What’s the latest news in the region?
As of Thursday midday, Ukraine and Russia have tentatively agreed to a plan to designate “safe corridors” to evacuate civilians. The corridors will also allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian official who participated in the negotiations in Belarus, said Thursday that representatives of both nations reached a preliminary agreement to observe cease-fires in the safe-corridor regions. The nations will establish the corridors soon, Podolyak said.
The agreement comes as Russian forces have begun sieging specific areas of Ukraine and raining down artillery bombardments of key cities.