Mission to Mars: Health Risks for Astronauts

A recent study following a private space mission in 2021 has identified several health risks, or “yellow flags,” that need to be addressed in order for humans to travel to Mars and back safely. The study, led by Christopher Mason from Cornell University, analyzed data from the private mission Inspiration 4, which was funded by technology billionaire Jared Isaacman.

One of the main concerns for long-term space missions, such as a trip to Mars, is the potential narrowing of kidney channels due to the lack of Earth’s protective magnetic field. Researchers from University College London found that the risk of kidney stones increases in space, leading to permanent damage and functional issues. This kidney problem has been observed in other astronauts on long-term missions in Earth’s orbit, but was previously attributed to microgravity-related osteoporosis.

To address these health risks, researchers suggest that medications could help restore normal kidney function, or a specific exercise regimen could counteract the effects of microgravity. Additionally, increased exposure to solar radiation outside Earth’s orbit has been linked to heart problems, with certain molecules identified as potential causes of cardiopathies. Immune system disorders, particularly in the lymphatic system, have also been observed in astronauts.

While the Inspiration 4 mission only lasted three days in orbit, the crew was exposed to radiation levels similar to those experienced during a nine-month stay on the International Space Station. A mission to Mars would expose astronauts to radiation levels ten times stronger than those experienced in Earth’s orbit.

Overall, addressing these health risks will be crucial for the success of future manned missions to Mars and beyond. Further research and technological advancements will be necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of astronauts during long-duration space travel.

Source: Scientific Reports