Scientists are suggesting that astronauts who travel to Mars could arrive with brain damage; this is because of damaging effects that are caused by prolonged cosmic ray exposure. More research will be needed before Elon Musk’s dream of populating Mars in the future can be a viable option.
Scientists at the University of California have recently published finding to this effect. In their tests, rodents were exposed to high energetic charged particles, the same found in galactic cosmic rays. The study found that the exposure lead to long-term brain damage involving cognitive impairments and dementia.
This is really bad news for any astronaut who is scheduled for prolonged round trips to Mars, as the damage to the brain cannot be reversed. The unique hazards encountered by space travellers can lead to potential central nervous system complications which will be evident long after their travels. These include memory deficits, performance decrements, depression, anxiety and impaired decision-making, which will progress and continue throughout life.
Currently, scientists are exploring ways to increase shielding on spacecraft’s. Unfortunately there is no material that can keep out cosmic rays. Another solution that is being investigated is a drug-based defence that will destroy harmful free radicals and protect neurotransmission.
Let’s hope that a solution can be found before anyone else makes a trip to Mars.