According to a recent scientific study, NASA astronauts that are planning to make the journey to the Red Planet may be at risk of suffering brain damage due to the prolonged exposure to cosmic rays.
The experts believe that the radiation levels to which the astronauts would be exposed during their Mars trip that could last to up to three years, might affect the brain neurons structure.
The inflammation of the brain could have serious symptoms similar to the symptoms of dementia. The symptoms include memory loss and a difficulty in resolving problems, the new study suggests. So these symptoms could affect the astronauts journey to Mars, scientists believe.
The new study was conducted by a team of experts from the University of California Irving School of Medicine and it involved exposing mice to charged particles at a constant level for approximately six weeks.
The scientists wanted to simulate what would happen to the NASA Mars astronauts during their trip to the Red Planet.
According to them, the results of the study are really concerning for the astronauts that will embark on the journey to Mars.
Charles Limoli, professor of oncology at the university and one of the scientists who conducted the study, explained that the cosmic rays will definitely have the same impact on humans as they had on the lab mice.
Even if the spacecraft is shielded against cosmic exposures, there would be highly charged particles that would still penetrate the walls of the spacecraft and the astronauts’ suits.
The study points out the fact that NASA has to go a long way in order to provide the astronauts the best protection against cosmic radiations during their years-long journey.
Professor Limoli wrote in the journal Science Advances that being exposed to the particles may have long-terms adverse side effects, including memory deficits, the decrease in astronauts’ performance, loss of focus and awareness during the spaceflight.
All these adverse reactions could imperil both the astronauts’ health and their mission.
NASA scientists are working on developing new and improved ways of protecting the astronauts from being exposed to radiation. They are exploring different materials, such as water, metals and different plastics.
Limoli believes that the answer to this issue could be pharmaceutical and he and his team are currently working on developing compounds that could protect the brain’s neurotransmissions.
NASA is currently planning to send astronauts to Mars by 2030; the trip would last approximately 18 months.
Image Source: astrobites