Fall Skin Care Sale

Radiation exposure a major hurdle for any manned mission to Mars


Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)

06-07-13

Washington (dpa) - Space travel is a hazardous endeavour at the best of times, but a new study suggests that astronauts on any future manned space mission to Mars are also more likely to get cancer, due to radiation exposure during the flight.

The team of scientists led by Rebecca Williams from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona gathered data on the radiation hitting NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity, following its launch in November 2011.

Radiation dosage is measured in units known as sieverts and experts estimate that an astronaut will have absorbed a total of 0.66 sieverts during a 180-day each-way mission to and back from Mars, mostly due to solar storms and high-energy cosmic rays.

The time spent on Mars during any potential mission was not considered in the calculations, which were published in the journal Science.

A cumulative dose of one sievert over an astronaut's entire career is thought to increase the risk of developing fatal cancer by about 5 percentage points.

"This means that a mission is not impossible, but the issue has become more complicated," study co-author and physicist Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber told dpa.

The radiation exposure from high-energy cosmic rays that come from outside the galaxy could be even higher under different circumstances.

"Previously we only had computer models but now we have real data telling us the level of radiation an astronaut would be exposed to on a journey to Mars," explained Guenther Reitz from the German Aerospace Center DLR.

The bombardment measured by Curiosity during its journey come as no surprise to scientists.

"We are now able to provide to best possible estimate of radiation exposure," said Wimmer-Schweingruber.

Naturally uncertainties remain as solar activity cannot be predicted with total accuracy, but the study does indicate to scientists where they need to invest more time in research before it is possible to launch a manned mission to Mars.

The results show that the development of more powerful rocket engines is essential. Any reduction in journey time would reduce the associated health risk.

By contrast, it is considered practically impossible to significantly shield the astronauts, because lead and other metals used in barriers would be too heavy.

It is now accepted that any astronauts embarking on a space mission to Mars will face a higher risk of contracting cancer.

However according to Wimmer-Schweingruber, smokers still face a higher chance of developing lung cancer than astronauts do. NASA is actively working on a manned flight to Mars, with 2030 touted as a realistic date for any potential mission.

Internet: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1235989

Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

Articles featured in Life Extension Daily News are derived from a variety of news sources and are provided as a service by Life Extension. These articles, while of potential interest to readers of Life Extension Daily News, do not necessarily represent the opinions nor constitute the advice of Life Extension.

  • Consumer Alerts | Learn about issues that could impact your right to obtain the nutritional supplements and/or hormones such as DHEA that you depend on.

  • LEF Forum | Life Extension hosts Forums on Supplements, Hormones, Lifestyles, Disorders/Diseases, and other areas of interest to life extensionists worldwide.

  • What's Hot | News flashes are posted here frequently to keep you up-to-date with the latest advances in health care, nutritional supplements, and longevity.

  • Legislative Action Center | Take action on important current issues featured in Life Extension magazine and our web site.

  • Events | Find out about upcoming life extension related conferences, seminars, and meetings, or view reports on past events.

  • Life Extension Update | Our periodical newsletter reports new findings in longevity, preventive medicine and disease as soon as they are discovered!

  • Multimedia Center | An information-packed collection of video and audio featuring various health topics of importance to you.

Get Your FREE Nutritional Supplement Guide