Health problems in space are inevitable. You may develop cancer, lose muscle tone or suffer from memory loss. The list is long, but the power of the Red Planet appeals is strong. Do you have what it takes to survive a 6-month space journey to Mars?
NASA wants people on Mars by 2035. Scientists believe that the planet holds all the resources needed to create a variety of sources of evidence to support the fact that there is water beneath the surface and the creatures that once lived on the Red Planet.
However, there is a six-month walk in a spaceship from Earth to Mars. Although experience can literally be described as outside of this world, there is a long list of difficulties with this journey. People who make this journey will have their names engraved in history, but they will face health risks that no one has ever faced before. Do you think you can have the mental and physical ability to keep up with such a journey?
Radiation hazards: When sunscreen is not enough
The first challenge on your journey is radiation. You can't see and feel it, but make sure you're constantly bombarded with radiation. And this can be prevented by a proper sunscreen, not the radiation we have on Earth. Some forms of radiation in space can violently collide with anything in the pathways of plastic, metal and skin.
Almost any part of your body is exposed to radiation damage. Cancer is certainly one of the most important concerns, but there are numerous other health problems, including cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment and memory problems, to name just a few.
However, they are not all condemned and gloomy. Researchers are working on ways to protect against radiation, including new materials that will block it and innovative pharmaceutical approaches that can be more effective than radiation. One example that is currently working is the Radiation Assessment Detector, which is sent to Mars specifically to prepare for future human research. This device measures radiation on Mars, including any radiation caused not only from space but also from interactions with the atmosphere and the ground.
No gravity is dangerous to bones and muscles
The second difficulty is the lack of gravity. In both space flights and future colonies on Mars, you will be very exposed to the gravitational field. "Lighter" Compared to the world.
Swimming in zero gravity can be fun, but it can be incredibly dangerous to your bones and muscles. Research revealed that after only 3 weeks in space, some muscles could contract by a third and the astronaut's physical capacity decreased by 30% to 50% during longer missions. All this is that blood vessels are not effective in transporting oxygen to the working muscle while in space. In practical terms, this means that you need to get tired easily and expect to struggle to do even the simplest things during your trip to Mars.
NASA recommends a 2-hour exercise each day, but there is another possibility that may attract many astronauts. The researchers achieved very positive results with resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, and suggested that a moderate daily dose could help reduce muscle loss on Mars.
Low gravity impairs blood circulation, as some astronauts have placed in ISS. In the world, gravity takes care to push blood from the heart to the rest of the body, but in the micro-attraction, blood does not move in the same way. For example, researchers found that after only 50 days in space, several astronauts found problems with blood circulation, even one of them developed a case of thrombosis. There is no solution for this problem yet, but many astronauts who are experiencing these problems are enough to do further research.
Another problem with micro-gravity is that it weakens how your body fights an infection. On your way to Mars, you may find yourself fighting unusual allergies and dealing with debris you've never experienced before. Standard measures such as vaccines and good nutrition go a long way to strengthen the immune system, often combined with using only pasteurized food and drink and powerful air filters to prevent spread of diseases. However, even such efforts do not seem sufficient, and researchers continue to work on ways to mitigate these problems.
Micro-gravity can also affect your intestinal microbiome. For example, long periods at the International Space Station (ISS) were enough to ruin the intestinal microbiome of astronaut Scott Kelly compared to his twin brother Mark Kelly in the world. Fortunately, these changes were not permanent, and when you set foot on a spaceship to start your journey to Mars, it may already carry a long list of pre-probiotics and probiotics to address these effects.
How can space travel affect your brain?
Finally, last but not least, space travel has an effect on your brain. Interestingly, a team of international experts, including some from Russia, found significant changes in the brain of several cosmonauts after a long time in space. It turned out that the brain adapted to micro-gravity by closing the balance system in the ears and paying more attention to visual and tactile feedback. When the disease and dizziness finally disappear, you will realize that your brain has completed this key. This may seem harmless, but such information is vital to developing ways to help people feel less ill in space and adapt to lower gravity more quickly.
More worrying is the risk of developing dementia or memory loss. Imagine going to Mars but you can't remember anything about your trip. Studies with mice, even after 6 months of exposure to space conditions created negative effects in the brain. However, there is hope in the form of pharmaceutical products intended to protect neurons. Researchers are not there yet, but studies are ongoing.
Not ready yet, working on
The truth is that no one will send you to Mars without knowing how spaceflight can affect your body. The theme of the Red Planet, however, is that the race continues to develop new ways to ensure a safe journey.
By Alex Reisa science writer with special expertise in biology and natural sciences.