NASA Mars bombshell: Space agency astronaut reveals ‘greatest obstacles’ for Mars mission – Express.co.uk


NASAhopes to have humans on Mars before 2040 as space exploration reaches new and incredible levels. But long-distance space travel comes with a unique set of health problems. Dr Pawelczyk, who spent almost 16 days on Spacelab, has now revealed the greatest challenges NASA faces for a manned Mars mission. And he claims there are three things NASA need to look out for.

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NASA Mars mission: The US-based space agency must overcome three key obstacles to reach Mars(Image: Getty)

Dr Pawelczyk, 58, believes it is far from certain humans can ever reach the Red Planet, due to its extreme distance and inhospitable conditions.

The brief answer to whether humans can survive a journey to, and live on, Mars is ‘probably’

NASA astronaut Dr James Pawelczyk

He told Express.co.uk: “The brief answer to whether humans can survive a journey to, and live on, Mars is ‘probably’ – the question is how successfully they will do so.

“We see some pretty changes in human biology – large enough that we would want to mitigate them, at least in part.

“And we are not sure we have the strategies in place just yet.”

The NASA astronaut revealed the issues range from the physiological, biological and even psychological.

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NASA Mars mission: 60 years have passed since NASA put a man on the Moon(Image: Getty)

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NASA Mars mission: Dr James Pawelczyk conducts research aboard Spacelab(Image: Getty)

He said: “In the science of physiology all life has evolved with Earth’s gravity and now we will be entering an environment of either middle-to-little gravitational force.

“The Moon has less than one-sixth of Earth’s gravity, while Mars has three-eights of Earth’s gravity.

“What happens to biology during that time is largely unknown in those fractional gravitational conditions.

“We can fully anticipate there will be losses of bone and muscle, not unlike what you would see with a person who has been confined to bed for many months or even years.

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“Those are systems that are reversible to a point, but there is also an irreversible nature to them.

“Obviously we would never want to reach that point, where they become irreversible. And that is a challenge.

NASA astronaut Dr Pawelczyk, who flew aboard the 1998 NASA STS-90 Space Shuttle mission, also explained the biological hurdles involved in any Mars mission.

He said: “The Earth’s magnetic field shields us from galactic solar radiation and solar particle events.

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NASA news: The space agency’s budget has decreased over the years(Image: Express)

“Mars does not have that ability – it is a dead planet in that regard.

“Those transiting to Mars and while on Mars, will experience high energy particles transiting cells in our body that we only encounter here on Earth with nuclear explosions.

“We estimate every cell in a human could be transited at least once on the way to Mars.

“When these large particles hit things like DNA, it really is quite destructive and we see our DNA repair mechanisms are unable to keep up.

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“As a result of this, we see a greater incidents of solid tumours, we also see oxidative stress associated wth things like accelerated cardiovascular disease and potentially even affecting cognitive function.

“So these are really large worries for deep space exploration – how we are going to protect ourselves from these?”

The problems associated with any manned Mars mission are not restricted to the physical, he explains.

He added: “Then there is the idea of imagining you are a person standing on Mars.

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NASA news: Dr James Pawelczyk spent almost 16 days in space(Image: NASA)

“What are the problems associated with living on Mars and looking back to see what appears to be a star and that is actually planet Earth?

“What is that degree of physical isolation going to mean?

“You cannot phone home to talk to family and friends, because by the time you ask a question, it is going to take 22 minutes to reach home and 22 minutes get a response.

“That will be quite a boring conversation.”

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