“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.” ~ Erol Ozan
After having destroyed the environment on our planet, Earth, we are eager to go settle our colonies on Mars. For those who are planning their next villa-on-the-lake on Mars, there is some bad news. You need to move to a Mental Asylum instead. The voyage to Mars will leave the astronaut’s brain damaged. This came out in a study published in Science Advances.
For the new study, conducted by the University of California and published in the journal Science Advances, researchers bombarded mice with ionized oxygen and titanium nuclei for six weeks giving them a dose of particle radiation equivalent to what they would experience during a trip to Mars using todays propulsion technology and spacecraft shielding.
The results were unfortunately not promising. The mice all showed acute brain inflammation that changed the way their neurons fired, make them less efficient at transmitting electrochemical signals. This loss of efficiency hampered both their memory and problem solving skills, effects that were similar to those shown by brain cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
The journal tested the impact on many criteria and has published the results May volume of the journal. Its terse final comments:
The persistent reduction in the ability of irradiated animals to react to novelty after such low-dose exposures suggests that space-relevant fluences of HZE particles can elicit long-term cognitive decrements in learning and memory.
UC Irvine has this interesting animation to explain the study and the impact of voyage to the red planet.
Does this completely jeopardize the Mars mission with human beings? Not necessarily other scientists aver. At best it gives a good point to start other experiments from using the results from this study.
“On a Mars mission, the dose would be accumulated over the full period of roughly 1,000 days at a very low rate,” Southwest Research Institute scientist Cary Zeitlin told Mashable. “In the lab, a comparable dose can be given, but it has to be done in a short span of time, perhaps a few hours or less. There’s simply no other way to do the studies.”
“Does that difference invalidate these results? Not at all,” Zeitlin added. “They’ve convincingly demonstrated that a low dose of high-energy heavy ions causes physical changes in the brain that are linked to behavioral changes. That point alone justifies further investigation.”
Any space journey is full of dangers, but it never stops those strong of heart and spirit to undertake it. If I was a betting man, I would bet that a man or a woman would one day reach the Red Planet. Even if s/he were to end of making faces at us and crying like a baby from there with no memory of us anymore!
Featured Image source: Flickr