Travel to Mars might be more dangerous than thought
According to the latest study, it will take about six months for astronauts to reach Mars and the journey would be tougher than thought. They will have to go through microgravity deep-space radiation and stress confinements. Psychological factors might be more difficult than physiological factors.
The spacecraft these astronauts launch aboard “will have to provide them everything they need for basic survival, but even more than that, because we expect them to be capable of doing a job — a job that has cognitive demands, a job that has physical demands,” said Jennifer Fogarty, the chief scientist with NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP).
The major stressors are altered gravity fields, hostile closed environments, radiation, isolation/confinement and distance from Earth. The HRP is tasked with analyzing these stressors and developing strategies. They are trying their best by creating these environments on Earth and performing various tests to monitor the mental and physical condition of the astronauts.
It is really hard to find the exact toll these can have. Tests such as radiation are conducted on lab animals but various others such as microgravity are not since they are not feasible. There are some other immediate concerns such as the risk for cancer in the future, as the doses received by the astronauts will be high enough to damage their central nervous system. Another major problem might be SANS space flight associated neuro ocular syndrome, also known as visual impairment/intracranial pressure (VIIP). These could cause long-lasting vision problems.
“SANS right now in low Earth orbit is very, very manageable and recoverable, but we don’t know the system well enough to predict whether it will remain that way for something like an exploration mission,” Fogarty said. “So, this is one of the highest-priority physiological areas that we’re studying right now.”
NASA isn’t looking directly at dropping astronauts at Mars for now. They are concentrating more on the moon and ways it will help astronauts move to Mars.