Mars Brain Damage Study
Astronauts traveling to Mars may suffer brain damage, study finds (Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock)

According to a new study by the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine astronauts traveling to Mars may suffer brain damage.

The Earth’s atmosphere protects human beings, animals and other living things from cosmic radiation. However, the magnetosphere on Mars is different than planet Earth, which may put human beings at risk. In order to determine whether future astronauts traveling to Mars could be impacted by cosmic radiation, researchers exposed rodents to radioactive chemicals and measured the results. University of California researchers found the animals had suffered impaired memory and brain damage.

The study was published in the journal of Science Reports. In a statement, Charles Limoli, a professor of radiation oncology at the University of California argued that “This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two-to-three-year round trip to Mars.” Limoli added, “The space environment poses unique hazards to astronauts. 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.”

The researchers also stated rodents began experiencing anxiety and fear issues after being exposed to the radiation, which could be a serious problem for astronauts traveling to Mars.

It is important to note that the study used rodents and not human beings for the experiment. However, the study explains the possible issues astronauts may experience traveling and colonizing Mars. “The Mars mission will result in an inevitable exposure to cosmic radiation that has been shown to cause cognitive impairments in rodent models, and possibly in astronauts engaged in deep space travel,” the study states.

NASA is currently planning an unmanned mission to Mars by 2018 and a manned mission by the 2030s. However, some entrepreneurs are far more ambitious. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, has announced a plan to send people to Mars and colonize the planet. In a speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk announced that SpaceX is planning on moving 100 people and their cargo to the red planet, calling the mission “super-exciting”.

Mars is over 140 million miles away from Planet Earth and the journey would take nearly a year to complete. Musk said the trek would occur every two years and the mission would start as soon as 2023. However, that timeline is dependent on funding as it would cost $10 billion per person to colonize the planet.