Health problems are inevitable in space. They can develop cancer, lose muscle tone or suffer from memory loss. The list is long, but the appeal of Red Planet is great. Do you have what it takes to survive a 6-month spaceflight to Mars?
NASA wants to have people on Mars by 2035. Scientists believe the planet has all the resources needed to build a human colony, including sub-surface water, and multiple sources of evidence to prove the fact that there were once living creatures on Earth Red Planet.
From Earth to Mars, however, there is a six-month hike in a spaceship. Although the experience can not literally be described as out of this world, there is a long list of challenges associated with this journey. The people who make this trip will get their names engraved on history, but first they have to face health risks that nobody has ever encountered before. Do you think you could have the mental and physical ability to cope with such a journey?
The dangers of radiation: When sunscreen is not enough
The first challenge on your journey is the radiation. You can not see it and you can not feel it, but rest assured that you are constantly bombarded by radiation. And that's not the kind of radiation we have on Earth that can be blocked with a decent sunscreen. Some forms of radiation in space can collide violently with everything in their path and tear through plastic, metal and skin.
Virtually every part of the body is harmful to the radiation. Cancer is certainly one of the major concerns, but there are countless other health problems, including cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment and memory problems, to name but a few.
However, it is not all decline and darkness. Researchers are working on ways to provide some protection against radiation, including new materials to block them, as well as innovative pharmaceutical approaches that may be more effective than shielding. One example that is already in operation is the Radiation Assessment Detector, which has been specifically sent to Mars to prepare for future exploration by humans. This device measures the radiation on Mars, not only from space, but also from the interaction with atmosphere and soil.
No gravity is dangerous to bones and muscles.
Her second challenge is gravity. Both in space flights and in future colonies on Mars, you are exposed to a gravitational field that is much brighter compared to what we have on Earth. Gravity, but this can be incredibly dangerous to your bones and muscles. Studies have shown that after only 3 weeks, some muscles can shrink in space by a third and on longer missions the astronaut's physical performance decreases by 30 to 50%. All this because blood vessels do not effectively transport oxygen in space to the working muscle. In practice, this means that you should expect to get tired quickly on your journey to Mars and have difficulty performing even the simplest tasks.
NASA recommends a two-hour training session daily, but there is another option that could appeal to many potential astronauts. With resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, the researchers showed very positive results, suggesting that a moderate daily dose could reduce muscle wasting on Mars.
Low gravity also affects blood circulation as some astronauts are stationed on it, the ISS has found out. On Earth, gravity forces the blood from the heart into the rest of the body, but in microgravity, blood does not move in the same way. After only 50 days in space, researchers found circulatory disorders in several astronauts, one of which even developed thrombosis. There is still no solution to this problem, but the large number of astronauts experiencing these issues is sufficient to warrant further investigation.
Another problem with microgravity is that it can weaken the fight against infection by your body. On your way to Mars, you can fight unusual allergies and deal with rashes you've never had before. Standard measures such as vaccines and a good diet boost the immune system considerably. As a rule, only pasteurized foods and drinks and strong air filters are used to prevent the spread of disease. But even such efforts seem inadequate, and researchers continue to work on ways to alleviate these problems.
Microgravity can also affect your gut microbial. For example, long periods aboard the International Space Station (ISS) were enough to destroy astronaut Scott Kelly's intestinal microbiome compared to his earthbound twin brother Mark Kelly. Fortunately, these changes have not been permanent, and if you enter a spaceship to begin your journey to Mars, you may already have a long list of pre-, pro-, and post-biotics to counteract these effects.
How space travel can affect your brain space travel on your brain. Interestingly, after a long time in space, a team of international experts, including some from Russia, discovered crucial changes in the cosmonaut brain. It turns out that the brain adapts to microgravity by eliminating the equilibrium system in the ears and emphasizing visual and tactile feedback. You will know that your brain has made that change when the feeling of nausea and dizziness finally disappears. This may seem harmless, but this kind of information is essential to finding ways in which people feel less sick in space and can adapt more quickly to low gravity.
Worrying is the risk of developing dementia or memory loss. Imagine, you go to Mars, but you can not remember anything about your trip. Studies with mice also revealed negative effects on the brain 6 months after exposure to space conditions. However, there is some hope in the form of pharmaceutical products aimed at protecting neurons. The researchers are not there yet, but they are working on it.
Not finished yet, but working on it.
In reality, nobody will send you to Mars without knowing exactly how spaceflight can affect your body. However, the charm of the Red Planet is so great that the race is looking for new ways to ensure a safe journey the field of biology and science.