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Not Just Radiation: Other Ways Planet Mars Could Kill Human Explorers

12 May 2017, 9:42 pm EDT By Katrina Pascual Tech Times
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Nasa building new rover for Mars 2020 mission

NASA has recently revealed new exciting information on its plan to send astronauts to planet Mars in the 2030s. The U.S. space agency has bannered a two-phase strategy, where it will build the Deep Space Gateway (DSG) orbiting the moon and a Deep Space Transport (DST) vehicle, as well as conduct a Mars verification mission before the actual journey to the Red Planet.

But these towering ambitions to conquer Mars don’t come easy and risk-free.

Apart from the problem of space radiation, human conquerors to Mars have to contend with a number of different dangers. The most immediate threat? The low pressure of its atmosphere, which is around 100 times thinner than that of Earth, Space.com warned.

Unprotected in this environment, human blood will boil even at ambient temperature, according to planetary scientist Pascal Lee.

“All the gases that are dissolved in your bloodstream [would] just turn into bubbles,” he said in a webcast interview, adding one would “fizz to death” within a matter of seconds.

In detail, here are other risks that accompany human Mars exploration.

Space Radiation

Pair Mars’s lack of global magnetic field with a thin atmosphere and you get high-energy cosmic rays and solar particles on the planetary surface. While space radiation is milder in some places on the Red Planet, it’s expected to peak where hydrogen is close to the ground. Over a couple of months, it would serve as a potent killer.

At present, NASA is developing dozens of technologies to support human health for missions beyond Earth orbit and to prevent cancer and death in explorers. For instance, it explores the idea of anti-radiation drugs and seeks to deploy a protected “safe room” on board the Orion spacecraft to shelter astronauts during solar flare storms.

Israeli company StemRad has also developed a radiation vest called AstroRad Radiation Shield, designed for shielding vital human tissue from radiation exposure.

Dust And CO2 Atmosphere

Mars is bathing in toxic, finely grained, and abrasive dust, which is terrible news for the human lungs. Distinct Martian dust can lead to death in just a matter of weeks, Lee revealed.

There’s the problem with Mars’s carbon dioxide atmosphere as well. If Earth’s atmosphere is around 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen (with trace amounts of water vapor and other gases), its Martian counterpart is 95 percent CO2.

Humans require oxygen and would perish from hypoxia in minutes without it.

Deadly Low Temperatures

Think of this: it’s a summer day on the Martian landscape, yet the equatorial temperature can reach up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures at night are lethal, plunging to around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

It wouldn’t take more than hours to die if human explorers are not warmed properly, Lee said.

NASA recently disclosed plans to conduct missions in cislunar space, meaning the region between Earth and its moon, including orbits surrounding the moon itself. This yearlong crewed mission to the moon is part of the first phase of its Mars plan, aiming to validate the DST vehicle before it actually travels to the planet.

“If we could conduct a yearlong crewed mission on this Deep Space Transport in cislunar space, we believe we will know enough that we could then send this thing, crewed, on a 1,000-day mission to the Mars system and back," said Greg Williams, the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate’s deputy associate administrator.

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