Astronauts on Mars Mission may suffer damage to brain from cosmic raysDaniel McCarthy (Author) Published Date : May 02, 2015 23:34 IST
Astronauts having extended Mars missions may suffer from dementia caused by long exposure to the galactic cosmic ray. Exposure to the highly energetic charged particles which are more like those we find in the galactic cosmic rays which keep bombarding astronauts during long space missions can cause serious damage to the central nervous system, potentially leading to cognitive impairments says Professor Charles Limoli and his colleagues at UCI.
Limoli added that the news is not positive for astronauts engaged in a 2 to 3 year round trip to Mars. They could potentially suffer from memory deficits, performance decrements, loss of focus and awareness that could potentially affect mission critical tasks during space flight and exposure to these rays may also bring adverse lifetime consequences to cognition.
Rodents were exposed to charged particle irradiation as part of the study which is a part of the Human Research program by NASA.
The analogue may not be perfect when humans with significantly bigger brains are considered. Also exposure to a single high intensity dose and continuous exposure can produce different effects. Shielding is an area that NASA has been working on, but when shielding gets better, the spacecraft also becomes heavier. Consequently the fuel requirement and therefore the expense would also go up.
A partial solution being considered was to have spacecrafts designed to include areas with enhanced shielding such as the ones used for sleep and rest. However, Limoli added that there was little or no escape from these highly energetic particles that would anyway traverse the ship.
Limoli stated further that work was on to identify pharmacologic strategies that involve compounds that can help scavenge free radicals and afford protection to neurotransmission.
Whatever be the solution that is worked out, space travel will have its share of dangers and we are only beginning to get a handle on some of these unknown dangers.
Astronauts on Mars Mission may suffer damage to brain from cosmic rays