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Space Weather – Is it safe for humans to fly to Mars?

Mars appears as a red-orange globe with darker blotches and white icecaps visible on both of its poles (Credit: NASA)

Our very own planet earth is the third planet from the sun, and the fourth one happens to be planet Mars; despite neighboring planet to earth, it is still further away.

Like all other nine planets, planet mars also revolves around the sun every 26 months. The revolution changes in different cycles, and at some point, planet Mars is nearer to the earth than other times. Scientists have given the name ‘opposition ‘to this phenomenon.  It has been estimated that Planet Mars is always between 35 up to 63 million miles away from the earth; this depends on the year of revolution.

Is it safe tolive onMars?

The million-dollar question that has given sleepless nights to scientists comes down to whether humans can survive on planet Mars since it’s much closer to our mother Earth! However, when it comes to sending people to Mars, one significant hazard is high-energy radiation. Planet Mars’s high levels of radiation can affect human tissue as well as any electronic components. People will suffer from effects such as sickness from the adverse radiation levels, the blood DNA and cells will be affected, resulting in deaths from the planet’s weather.

These effects have affected further studies on the planet as astronauts find it difficult to travel to the planet for fear of such mentioned health and body effects. Additionally, traveling to Mars has been hectic since the energy particles from the sun reflected by the planet on top of its cosmic rays present a hectic challenge that astronauts can handle for long.

To arrive at a clear conclusion on whether human beings can survive on planet earth depends on developing means to counteract particle energy radiation by planet Mars. The lack of a solution to stay safe from the extreme radiation levels will remain a massive hurdle for human beings to survive on the planet. More importantly, astronauts need to determine the best time to travel to Mars for further experiments and only when the radiation levels are at much lower levels.

The answer is, humans should be able to safely travel to and from Mars, provided that the spacecraft has sufficient shielding, and the round trip is shorter than approximately four years.

The best time totravel to Mars

The solar maximum has been determined by scientists as the best time to travel to planet Mars; this is when the solar activity is at the highest levels. Because, during this time, a period referred to as the astronomical period, the dangerous and harmful radiation energy particles being deflected by the high levels of solar activity.

How much time does it take to travel to Mars?

According to estimates by Yuri Shprits at UCLA, traveling to Mars takes approximately nine months, so from launching and depending on the amount of fuel available on the spaceship, astronauts can travel to Mars and get back to planet Earth in less than two years.

 

Mars is a tenth of the mass of Earth, so gravity has only a third of the pull we experience. © Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library | Getty

 

How to Stay Safe fromthe Radiation

The sheer volume of material that surrounds a structure absorbs energetic particles and their associated secondary particle radiation before they reach the astronauts. However, adopting pure bulk to protect astronauts would be prohibitively expensive, as increased mass results in increased launch fuel requirements.

Utilizing more efficient shielding materials would result in weight and cost savings, but determining the optimal material requires research and inventiveness. NASA is actively researching several potential applications, ranging from spacecraft to Martian habitats to space suits.

Physical shields are not the only way to prevent particle radiation from reaching astronauts: scientists are also investigating the possibility of creating a relatively small, localized electric or magnetic field around a spacecraft or habitat. Similar to how the Earth’s magnetic field protects us from energetic particles, this field could create a protective bubble around the spacecraft or habitat.

Challenges for the Astronauts

Some of the critical challenges that the astronauts are ever bound to face include;

  • The journey to Mars can be mentally straining because astronauts will be obligated to work in shifts between periods of intense activity and boredom.
  • Monotony will affect the astronauts as they have to eat liquid food, which may also affect their wellbeing; they may suffer from physical and mental illnesses, on top of nutritional deficiencies.
  • Delays in communication between planet earth stations and the astronauts for up to twenty minutes on both ways.
  • The spaceships may fail, and the astronauts facing medical emergencies are all left unto the hands of the astronauts to deal with, an added overwhelming task.

 

Bottom-line

These are just a few of the difficulties that a Mars expedition will face, and all of the technological components necessary to overcome them exist. All that remains is for us to invest the time and effort necessary to pull everything together.

 

Cited Sources

Dobynde, M. I., et al. “Beating 1 Sievert: Optimal Radiation Shielding of Astronauts on a Mission to Mars.” Space Weather, vol. 19, no. 9, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021sw002749.

Drake, Nadia. “Why We EXPLORE Mars-and What Decades of Missions Have Revealed.” Science, National Geographic, 4 May 2021, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/mars-exploration-article.

“How Safe Is the Journey? – a Mission to Mars.” Mars One, https://www.mars-one.com/faq/mission-to-mars/how-safe-is-the-journey.

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Creating a Vision for Space Medicine During Travel Beyond Earth Orbit. “Astronaut Health beyond Earth Orbit.” Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223774/.

Learn, Joshua Rapp. “Why Haven’t Humans Reached Mars?” Discover Magazine, Discover Magazine, 17 Sept. 2021, https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/why-havent-humans-reached-mars.

Macaulay, Thomas. “Scientists Say Human Missions to Mars Shouldn’t Exceed Four Years.” TNW | Neural, 31 Aug. 2021, https://thenextweb.com/news/radiation-modeling-suggests-human-mars-mission-should-not-exceed-four-years.