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Mars Human Colony Mission: Early Colonizers Could Take Heavy Psychological Toll

18 March 2017, 8:14 am EDT By Amy Gordon Tech Times
Colonization of Mars may soon become a reality, however, scientists wonder about the psychological toll on the first colonizers. Research is being conducted by NASA to find out the long-term effects of such isolation.  ( NASA )

The colonization of Mars is not a far-fetched dream as Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, has shared plans on numerous occasions. NASA also likes to remind people about its plan to arrive at the Red Planet with its mission called "Journey to Mars" in the 2030s.

NASA is already a step ahead by finishing the initial stage of its mission to the Red Planet by imparting a one-year training on the International Space Station (ISS) to two astronauts, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko from the U.S. and Russia, respectively.

However, living on another planet is far more different than just stepping on its soil. In the context of staying on the Red Planet permanently, there are several factors that are concerning. This includes how humans will survive not only physically, but also psychologically in such tough surroundings.

In a study published in the journal Space Policy, Konard Szocik, a cognitive scientist at the University of Information Technology and Management in Rzeszow, Poland, raised an argument that just training the astronauts in the ISS will not be sufficient to survive on Mars.

He added, that even human bodies need to be changed drastically to survive physically and psychologically on the Red Planet.

Preparation To Survive In The Martian Colony

In the study, Szocik mentioned some preparations suggested by other researchers.

Szocik believes that the first group of astronauts on the mission to Mars can have a severe psychological damage. The first crew would probably go through an extreme psychological examination and conditioning, but the prospect still presents certain degrees of danger.

To this end, NASA has been conducting an experiment named HI-SEAS, where a small crew is sealed inside a dome to mimic the condition on Mars. This research has been giving promising results and is being performed near the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii.

Many have proposed to put the astronauts into a coma prior to the journey to Mars. According to them, this twisted method will help to decrease the lack of energy, protect the muscle from disintegration, as well as save the body from profound space radiation.

In 2012, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggested removing the appendix and gallbladder to maintain safety. To support their views, they stated that surgery in the space could be very difficult if someone's appendix or gall bladder collapsed.

Scientists at NASA, however, feel that although difficult, it is not impossible for humans to colonize the planet. However, at the same time, they too feel that psychological issues may arise during the course of the mission.

"It is true that psychological issues ("behavioral health" in NASA's terminology) will be a major concern," said Mark Shelhamer, former chief scientist at NASA's human research program, to Gizmodo.

He also added that even if ISS is isolated, it is never enough to prepare the crew.

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