Cosmic rays could give future Mars astronauts space dementia

Getting astronauts into space and keeping them alive is already a tough nut to crack, and a new study shows it’ll be even harder than we thought.

The Huffington Post reports on a new Scientific Reports study looking at the effect charged particles (like the ones astronauts will face in the harsh wilds of space) have on the brains of rodents. Long story short: Cosmic rays could cause lasting brain damage and dementia, and at least judging by the study, those effects didn’t go away after the radiation stopped.

“This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two-to-three-year round trip to Mars,” University of California, Irvine’s Charles Limoli said. “Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel - such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making.”

Even scarier? It can take a few months of exposure for the effects to begin, meaning potential astronauts on a long term mission (i.e. a trip to Mars) could start mentally deteriorating in the middle of the mission. Needless to say, that’s not good. 

For NASA, and any other group wanting to send astronauts to Mars (*cough*SpaceX*cough), it means they’ll need to work extremely hard to find a way to shield these future space explorers from these cosmic rays. Thankfully we still have a while to figure it out.

 

(Via The Huffington Post)

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