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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

NASA Decodes Hazards of Human Spaceflight to Mars

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In a bid to make an organised effort to overcome the hindrance that lies before a human journey to Mars, NASA has deciphered some hazards that astronauts can encounter on a continual basis on the Red Planet.

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The space agency’s Human Research Programme (HRP) has used ground-based analogues, laboratories and the International Space Station (ISS), to calculate human performance and countermeasures rewired for the exploration of Mars which is expected to be in the 2030s.

The team went ahead to divide the hazards into five classifications which are radiation, distance from Earth; isolation and confinement; gravity (or lack thereof); and hostile or closed environments.

“Above Earth’s natural protection, radiation exposure increases the risk of cancer, damages the central nervous system, can alter cognitive function, and reduce motor function and prompt behavioural changes,” NASA said in a statement on Monday.

To decrease this, deep space vehicles will have superior protective shielding, dosimetry and alerts.

Furthermore, the crews are to be chosen carefully, trained and supported to ensure that they can work tirelessly as a team for months or years in space.

Circadian desynchronisation, sleep loss, work overload compound issues isolated and confined and may lead to adverse health outcomes, performance decrements, and compromised mission objectives.

Another hazard they will be facing is the distance from the Earth. Mars is on average 140 miles from Earth and as the astronauts would be leaving for roughly three years.


For example, when the astronauts aboard the ISS face a medical event of an emergency, the crew can return home within hours. Also, cargo vehicles can continually resupply the crews with fresh food, medical equipment, and other resources.

However, once the engines burn for Mars, there’s no turning back and resupply.

“Facing a communication delay of up to 20minutes on the way and a medical emergency or the possibility of equipment failures, astronauts must be able to confront an array of situations without the support from their fellow team on Earth,” NASA said.

A human mission to Mars can also confront the variance of gravity.

While on Mars, astronauts would need to live and work in three-eighths of Earth’s gravitational pull for up to two years. This can very much impact their muscles, bones, cardiovascular system.

NASA is establishing how current and future, US Food and Drug Administration-approved osteoporosis treatments, could be employed to check the risk for astronauts developing the early bone loss condition.

The spacecraft bound for Mars will include essential habitability factors such as pressure, temperature, noise, lighting and quantity of space. It is essential that astronauts are getting the necessary food, sleep and exercise needed to stay healthy and happy.

“While these five aforementioned hazards present significantly challenged, they also offer opportunities for growth and innovation n technology, medicine and our understanding of the human body,” the space agency stated.

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