Exploring the cosmos
The problems of flying to Mars
Astronauts will have to worry about space radiation—and also each other
Sending people to Mars is a daunting prospect. It would take astronauts at least nine months to get there, they might spend a year on the planet itself, and they would then spend another nine months on the journey home. During that time they would be exposed both to high radiation levels and to the increasingly irritating tics and habits of their fellow crew. It is hard to say which of these would be more likely to result in someone’s death.
But though the scientific value of such a mission is questionable, as a propaganda stunt it would be unequalled. America’s space agency, NASA, is therefore looking into ways of preserving both the physical and the mental health of putative Martian voyagers. And, at this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), held in Washington, dc, several presentations described work towards that end.
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