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.”
Read more about the study
GIFS via Mars Brain Animation
The limitations of using solar power on earth can be anything from bad weather to just the fact that it needs to be daytime. What if power could be collected both day and night, rain or shine? National Lab researchers at Lawrence Livermore are studying this possibility by launching solar satellites into space.
These orbiting power plants could always be positioned on the day side of earth high above any type of stormy weather. One of the ways this could work is to have a string of geostationary satellites 35,000km above the earth’s surface that would transmit power back down to earth via microwaves. Just one of these satellites could power a major US city.
The challenge comes with both the size and the cost. A single satellite could be as big as 3-10km in diameter and need around 40 rocket launches to get all the materials into space.
Read more about this technology here →
LEGO CUUSO, a website where you can vote on user submitted LEGO ideas, recently featured UC San Diego alum Stephen Pakbaz’s Mars Curiosity Rover model. Pakbaz actually worked at NASA as a mechanical engineer on the actual rover project.
Read more about him here →
The OpenLab Network facilitates innovative, creative and collaborative research with art, community, design, technology, and science with the University of California Santa Cruz.
“OpenLab is a collaboration between the arts and the sciences where scientists basically are looking for new and innovative ways to view and present their research in a way that is accessible to the general public. We might know something about visualizing our data in a way that is useful to us scientifically, but we may not know the best way to do that for presenting to the general public. so the collaboration is about doing that in an effective way.” – James Guillochon, Graduate student at UC Santa Cruz
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