Houston, We Have Another Problem
Study Shows that Space Travel is Harmful to the Brain
December 31, 2012
“Galactic cosmic radiation poses a significant threat to future astronauts,” said M. Kerry O’Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and the senior author of the study. “The possibility that radiation exposure in space may give rise to health problems such as cancer has long been recognized. However, this study shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”
While space is full of radiation, the earth’s magnetic field generally protects the planet and people in low earth orbit from these particles. However, once astronauts leave orbit, they are exposed to constant shower of various radioactive particles. With appropriate warning, astronauts can be shielded from dangerous radiation associated with solar flares. But there are also other forms of cosmic radiation that, for all intents and purposes, cannot be effectively blocked.
Frankly, I'm not that surprised of this. Though we might not realize it, Earth protects us, to put it simply, from a lot of junk out in space. I've always wondered how space suites protect astronauts when they are outside the spaceship. Perhaps engineers can develop new ones that are more effective? I also think that, in order to get away with a trip like this, then the medical care will have to be very advanced in the future, not to mention portable. If astronauts arrive on Mars and they are diseased, they need to reverse their diseases (such as Alzheimer's) while on Mars. Hence, long-distance space travel probably is still a ways off. Feel free to comment.