Space travel just got a lot more dangerous.
Mars astronauts are at a far greater risk of cancer than previously thought, a new study has revealed.
The study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has effectively doubled an astronaut’s chance of getting a disease in space.
Conventional studies on the dangers of radiation exposure in space are based around the idea of targeted radiation where the cells are hit in short tightly controlled bursts.
With a mission to Mars expected to take 900 days minimum, NASA’s astronauts wouldn’t be exposed in short bursts.
“Exploring Mars will require missions of 900 days or longer and includes more than one year in deep space where exposures to all energies of galactic cosmic ray heavy ions are unavoidable,” explains UNLV scientist Francis Cucinotta.
If that wasn’t bad enough Cucinotta has some more bad news saying that our current radiation shielding technology would, at best, “modestly decrease the exposure risks.”
The problem stems form the fact that constant exposure to cosmic radiation can cause heavily damaged cells to start spreading throughout the body.
“Galactic cosmic ray exposure can devastate a cell’s nucleus and cause mutations that can result in cancers,” Cucinotta explained.
“We learned the damaged cells send signals to the surrounding, unaffected cells and likely modify the tissues’ microenvironments. Those signals seem to inspire the healthy cells to mutate, thereby causing additional tumors or cancers.”
Cosmic radiation is admittedly a well documented hurdle that NASA and other space exploration companies like SpaceX will need to overcome if they’re to safely transport humans to Mars.
What may come as a blow however is the severity of these new findings, suggesting that at present, we may not have a solution.