Recent studies have pointed to the fact that space travel might result in long-term permanent damage to the brain cells. Scientists are working round the clock to find a solution in the light of upcoming milestones!
A trip full of risk!
As the science progresses, we get closer and closer to things that were once impossible. 50 years back it cost a humongous fortune to successfully send a man to space. In the present era, day by day innovations is been integrated into to space launch technology making it easier and feasible. Once literally impossible task that can only be managed by a government body is now generating revenue for atleast half a dozen private corporations. Technological growth is what all it implies. Still, are humans safe on space flight? A mechanical risk is far to be a concern in the present era, but biological risks are yet to be confronted.
Biological risks in spaceflight
A study in astronauts shows clear signs of biological risks a person might suffer in long term space vacation. Some notable problems are reduced bone density, Insomnia, neuron damages in CNS, changes digestive behavior, reduced gut microbiota, flatulence, memory loss etc. A long-term space stay could even worsen the condition as observed in astronauts who might spend more time in travel. A recent study on astronauts returned from ISS confirm the chance of a brain damage. Human body surviving in zero gravity conditions would also face problems with blood flow and heart functioning. This concerns the upcoming MARS mission, but guess what ? NASA has already been into it!
In order to fully understand the effects scientists from the University of California, Irvin had conducted a study in mice by subjecting them to a similar condition. As a result, they found that mice have reduced dendrites and spines in the neurons. Also, there is a high risk of excessive ‘fear extinction’ or a replay of fearful event involuntarily. Other risks include chances of dementia, Alzheimer’s etc. This suggests that with a low-functioning brain, astronauts would face a challenge in taking decisions during the flight, which would indeed cause a catastrophe.
In the light of this study NASA has commissioned a team of experts to study and assess the issue. The results would be focused on the upcoming Mars mission which probably would take a minimum of three years to complete. Also, risks of cancers, cataract, sterility and psychological breakdown are also studied. Unlike shorter flights, the Mars journey would take atleast 2.5 ~3 years alone for a round trip journey. This extended time frame would have a disastrous effect on human body. If the astronauts physically fail during the journey it would fail the mission agenda itself.
The biological aspects aren’t everything, there are tons of problems to be taken care. But it isn’t an impossible task, though!
Cosmic radiation exposure and persistent cognitive dysfunction. Parihar VK, Allen BD, Caressi C, Kwok S, Chu E, Tran KK, Chmielewski NN, Giedzinski E, Acharya MM, Britten RA, Baulch JE, Limoli CL. Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 10; 6:34774. [PMID:27721383]