Thousands of people have volunteered for a potential mission to Mars, but if any of them end up making the trip, they might lose a few brain cells along the way.
New research out of UC Irvine finds that exposure to cosmic rays during the long journey, expected to take about six to eight months, can damage the brain and lead to dementia-like impairment.
“This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round trip to Mars,” Charles Limoli explained. Limoli is a professor of radiation oncology at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.
“Performance decrements, memory deficits and loss of awareness and focus during spaceflight may affect mission-critical activities, and exposure to these particles may have long-term adverse consequences to cognition throughout life.”
What can be done to protect astronauts speeding off to the red planet?
As a partial solution, Limoli said, spacecraft could be designed to include areas of increased shielding, such as those used for rest and sleep. But the brain-dulling particles would still get on board.
“There is really no escaping them.”
GIFS via Mars Brain Animation