NASA Warns Astronauts Bound For Mars Of Brain Damage Risk

By @vitthernandez on
Mars One: 44 Indians Shortlisted for One-Way Ticket to Mars (NASA)
Mars One: 44 Indians Shortlisted for One-Way Ticket to Mars (NASA) NASA

The controversial Mars One project has the ambitious plan of sending people to habituate the Red Planet and establish a human colony there. That is if they arrive on Mars still sane.

A new study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, warned that astronauts who would travel a very long space voyage risk becoming brain dead, reports Science Times. Researchers at the University of California conducted the study published on Friday in Science Advances journal.

The researchers subjected lab mice to high levels of ionized oxygen and titanium nuclei for six weeks and a dose of particle radiation, simulating the experience of a trip to Mars if the mice would travel to the Red Planet using current propulsion technology and spacecraft shielding.

The mice suffered from acute brain inflammation, which made their neurons less efficient at transmitting electrochemical signals. The effect was negative impact on memory and problem-solving skills, similar to what brain cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy experience.

“Performance decrements, memory deficits, and loss of awareness and focus during spaceflight may affect mission-critical activities, and exposure to these particles may have long-term adverse consequences to cognition throughout life,” LifeSciences quotes Dr Charles Limoli, professor of radiation oncology at UV Irvine School of Medicine.

He said the parts of the brain that sustained the damage were the media prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. To protect astronauts on their way to Mars from cosmic radiation, there is a need to make the spacecraft with better shield, which would increase the cost.

Limoli said metals like aluminium are not very good shields for protecting humans against radiations. He added that plastic or water could be better shields.

TVNews pointed out that living in the International Space Station, or ISS, where astronauts rotate in shifts of six months, is different since it circles the planets at a height within the Earth’s protective magnetosphere. Astronauts on the ISS are not bombarded by galactic cosmic rays found in deep space. The rays are remnants of supernovae or past explosions.

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