A study published Monday by researchers at the University of California, Irvine indicates long-term exposure to cosmic rays could cause dementia and cognitive impairment, making a three-year mission to Mars and back problematic.
Astronauts travelling to Mars might be at a high risk of long-term brain damage and even dementia due to galactic cosmic ray exposure, said a new study. To explore a phenomenon called “space brain,” researchers from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) exposed rodents to highly energetic charged particles fully ionized oxygen and titanium at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.
"This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two-to- three-year round trip to Mars," Limoli said.
"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. Many of these adverse consequences to cognition may continue and progress throughout life."
As a partial solution, Mars-bound spacecraft could be designed to include areas of increased shielding, such as those used for rest and sleep, Limoli noted.
However, these highly energetic charged particles will traverse the ship nonetheless, he added, "and there is really no escaping them."
Limoli's group is also working on preventive treatments involving compounds that scavenge free radicals and protect neurotransmission