NASA Explains Hazards of Manned Mission to Mars
The space agency’s Human Research Programme (HRP) used ground-based analogues, laboratories, and the International Space Station (ISS), to evaluate human performance and countermeasures required for the exploration of Mars, expected to be in the 2030s.
In a bid to make an organized effort to overcome the obstacles that lie before a human journey to Mars, NASA has decoded some hazards that astronauts can encounter on a continual basis on the Red Planet.
NASA’s Human Research Program divides the hazards into five classifications: Radiation; Isolation and Confinement; Distance from Earth; Gravity (or lack thereof); and Hostile or Closed environments.
NASA researchers said, “various research platforms give NASA valuable insight into how the human body and mind might respond during extended forays into space, Above Earth’s natural protection, radiation exposure increases cancer risk, damages the central nervous system, can alter cognitive function, reduce motor function and prompt behavioural changes” and further added, “The resulting data, technology and methods developed serve as valuable knowledge to extrapolate to multi-year interplanetary missions.”
Deep space vehicles will have significant protective shielding, dosimetry, and alerts. Further, crews are to be carefully chosen, trained and supported to ensure they can work effectively as a team for months or years in space. Sleep loss, circadian desynchronization, and work overload compound issue isolated and confined and may lead to performance decrements, adverse health outcomes, and compromised mission objectives.
When astronauts aboard the ISS face a medical event or emergency, the crew can return home within hours. Additionally, cargo vehicles continually resupply the crews with fresh food, medical equipment, and other resources. However, once you burn your engines for Mars, there is no turning back and resupply.
A human mission to Mars can also encounter the variance of gravity. On Mars, astronauts would need to live and work in three-eighths of Earth’s gravitational pull for up to two years. This can impact their bones, muscles, cardiovascular system. NASA is identifying how current and future, US Food and Drug Administration-approved osteoporosis treatments, could be employed to mitigate the risk for astronauts developing the premature bone loss condition.
NASA also understands that the ecosystem inside a vehicle plays a big role in everyday astronaut life. Important habitability factors include temperature, pressure, lighting, noise, and quantity of space, the statement said. It’s essential that astronauts are getting the requisite food, sleep and exercise needed to stay healthy and happy, it said.