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Disease May Prevent Manned Journey To Mars

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the get-your-penicillan-to-mars dept.

Mars 177

Pickens writes "Science Daily News reports that human missions to Mars and all other long-term space flights might be compromised by disease, first because space travel appears to weaken astronauts' immune systems; and second, because it increases the virulence and growth of microbes. 'When people think of space travel, often the vast distances are what come to mind first,' says Jean-Pol Frippiat from Nancy-University in France, 'but even after we figure out a way to cover these distances in a reasonable amount of time, we still need to figure out how astronauts are going to overcome disease and sickness.' Frippiat says studies show that immune systems of both people and animals in space flight conditions are significantly weaker than their grounded counterparts and that common pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli and Staphylococcus reproduce more rapidly in space flight conditions, leading to increased risk of contamination, colonization and serious infection."

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two words... (3, Informative)

lannocc (568669) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933025)

Diversified ecosystem.

Re:two words... (4, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933065)

WTF? How is a first post mentioning a "diversified ecosystem" redundant? Your immune system responds better if there are constant challenges to it, which is what a diversified ecosystem does. It also tends to help keep pathogens numbers down, since even pathogens have predators/competitors in a diversified ecosystem.

Re:two words... (4, Interesting)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933275)

The constant challenge to your immune system is xray and gamma radiation. Astronauts say spacewalk "smells" like a pine forest or sparks. Which is the smell of ozone/nitrous oxides. It's caused by radiation, it's like a locally generated ozone-layer, inside your spacesuit. Life, such as the human body, or especially Deinococcus Radiodurans bacteria, can still withstand quite a bit of radiation or oxidation damage and repair itself. The major source of radiation damage comes from potassium in the diet, from the potassium 40 isotope. Another similar damage is UV radiation damage, that still causes skin cancer here and there after all these millions of years of adaptation. The major source of oxidation damage that is very similar to radiation damage, comes from oxygen. Life cannot function without either potassium or oxygen, though you could clean up potassium 40 from your diet. But what's the point?

For any kind of successful very longterm space missions one needs heavy shielding at least equivalent to the atmosphere we have down here on earth. More radiation (even living at higher altitudes with less atmospheric shielding, or even near an ozone hole region) increases the rates of mutations miscarriages and cancers, but also the rate or adaptation to new environments. One of the dangers with non-well-shielded space travel is faster evolution than down here on Earth. But multilayer shielding can compensate for that, and keep mutation levels to lower than natural.

That brings up the question, that maybe lack of radiation is a cause of sicknesses, in a sense of not keeping the immune system well trained. People who live in a completely sterile bacteria free environment have very weak immune systems that lacks training. One still needs a flora to coexist inside the body if for nothing else, for composting intestinal contents. Those same bacteria can cause illnesses, if not kept under check by the immune systems constant vigilance. Still, as far as radiation goes, people coming from areas of high background radiation, such as India, don't seem to suffer much compared to people living in low background radiation areas. If anything, fluoride in their drinking water is the bigger problem for them, and background radiation is a relative nonissue. Perhaps a certain dose of background radiation is like a vitamin, increases health by keeping the immune system trained.

Re:two words... (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934925)

Still, as far as radiation goes, people coming from areas of high background radiation, such as India

India has a traditionally high population density. You need to find a better example that doesn't have enormous alternate factors for explaining disease resistance.

Three words... (1, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933431)

Your immune system responds better if there are constant challenges to it, which is what a diversified ecosystem does.

Lots of sex.
Without condoms (and with swallowing). Regular exchange of bodily fluids also keeps your immune system ticking over. Regular sex might help morale as well.

Re:Three words... (2, Insightful)

rvw (755107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933611)

Your immune system responds better if there are constant challenges to it, which is what a diversified ecosystem does.

Lots of sex.

Without condoms (and with swallowing). Regular exchange of bodily fluids also keeps your immune system ticking over. Regular sex might help morale as well.

No but yeah but yeah but yeah no but yeah no but yeah... ...but no

because that may result in this [littlebritain.tv] ! And that's no diversity what you see although it may be interesting to watch this move around Mars for a while and it cleans things up here a little.

Re:Three words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29934837)

That depends on the crew composition.

Re:Three words... (1)

acedotcom (998378) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934957)

Sign me up....now.

Re:two words... (3, Insightful)

operator_error (1363139) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933139)

Hmm, I was thinking those words were gonna be: selective breeding.

Until that works out, I suggest we focus on telescopes and probes, rovers, and those things that float in seas of frozen methane. Also as a way to reduce our carbon emissions by using lower weight vehicles.

Re:two words... (0, Redundant)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933337)

Well - as of this posting, first post remains the most intelligent comment on the story. To bad some dickweed modded the post down - the moderator is totally clueless regarding the problem, or the suggested solution.

For the clueless: we have, on earth, an ecosystem, at the bacterial level. Determining what controls the growth of pathogens would enable us to introduce those controls onto the ship. Viruses, germs, and bacteria that may prey on those pathogens are part of that ecosystem. Humidity, temperature, and radiation are other parts of the system. Gravity may or may not be an important part of the system.

The core of the problem is controlling those bacterial populations - not eliminating them. There are some good posts below explaining why it might be bad to eliminate them.

Diversified ecosystem. lannocc really has a clue about what is going on, so mod him up, folks.

Re:two words... (1)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933401)

Four words; all-over body condom. See our great heroes boinking about the red planet in complete safety

Another two words... (0, Offtopic)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933407)

Day care

Re:two words... (3, Insightful)

Reziac (43301) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934163)

Actually, yes...

There are two basic possibilities here:

1) low gravity enhances microbe growth. -- Eh, probably not enough in itself, since the microbial balance would probably still be roughly the same.

2) if the environment is made too sterile, it actually encourages pathogens, which are normally kept largely in check by other microbes. This is actually the root of the problem with hospitals and resistant infections today, to the point that some are considering returning to a less-sterile general environment. -- Easily solved; just don't sterilize the equipment in the first place. In short, maintain the diversified natural microbial population, to discourage overgrowth of pathogens.

Re:two words... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29934745)

It's really simple folks: The first group of men and women (all paired up to have families) will NEVER be allowed to return to Earth. Their children (born on Mars) will NEVER be able to visit Earth, but if their children's children are fine and everything is handled properly, they may one day visit Earth. It's simple like I said: Bad things are going to happen, some of which will be genetic/virus/bacteria/etc related. Until the teams solve these problems, have a periodic drop of a couple or two (meaning a couple ready to start a family but have good technical know-how to contribute to the colony) every 2-5 years to keep testing the waters, blend it all together with the creation of vaccinations and the like, we are not going anywhere...

Man (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933027)

That sucks

MiR? ISS? (2, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933031)

Well, we had people on long term space missions on Mir and ISS that are comparable in time with a mars mission, without them being eaten alive by E. coli, Salmonella and whatnot. What was the problem again?

Re:MiR? ISS? (4, Interesting)

AniVisual (1373773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933053)

I'm sure that those people had constant refuellings with air over the years (maintenance). There isn't in a closed environment like a shuttle to Mars.

Re:MiR? ISS? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933059)

That might be a problem indeed. Would be interesting what is more important - refueling the air itself or changing the filtering/AC components on a regular basis. Still, I don't think that this is a show-stopper. Worst possibility is that we would have to carry more resources on a long trip to keep the systems clean.

Re:MiR? ISS? (2, Insightful)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933419)

Then I would posit that the first step would be a station or stationary ship, in space, to run a "no movement" drill for the trip to Mars.

If it takes 2 years, then that ship has to last 2 years without any help unless there is an extreme emergency.

Re:MiR? ISS? (1)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934011)

Then I would posit that the first step would be a station or stationary ship, in space, to run a "no movement" drill for the trip to Mars.

If it takes 2 years, then that ship has to last 2 years without any help unless there is an extreme emergency.

That's not a bad idea, with the shuttles' EOL coming up quick, they should get on this. Have a bumper number of Soyuz resupplies, and take up as much resupply as you can with the remaining shuttle launches, get 6 new 'nauts up there and let them stew for 2 years or as long as you can before sending up another Soyuz resupply.

Re:MiR? ISS? (2, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934735)

There isn't in a closed environment like a shuttle to Mars.

I don't think that that is really true or relevant. Even the long duration ISS expeditions typically had only 1 or 2 Progress spacecrafts dock with them during the mission. I would imagine that any deep space missions would have provisions kept in lockers or modules that would be opened in time (i.e., whatever perturbations are caused by a Progress supply mission would be similar to that caused by opening a previously closed supply module). BTW, I have never heard of a cold or other disease being transmitted by an unmanned re-provisioning, and I think that the biological perturbations from them are small. (They do typically bring fresh fruit, but just enough for a treat for a day or two.)

Now, the Progress or other supply spacecraft do carry an air supply that is bled into the ISS (i.e., the air is replaced over time), but this is done as an engineering necessity (air is lost), and would presumably have to be done on a long-duration deep space mission as well. In other words, I would argue that a long duration ISS expedition is just about as closed an environment as a long duration deep space mission.

Re:MiR? ISS? (4, Informative)

ikedasquid (1177957) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933215)

Quick wikipedia search results in: The longest stay in space was 438 days, by Russian Valeri Polyakov onboard Mir. Separate search for time (one way) earth to mars is in the range 6 - 9 months. The trip would require O2 production and CO2 scrubbers or some equivalent. The scrubbers used in industry and on submarines are generally toxic to people (and presumably to microbes) or get really hot. Either way I think the idea of cleansing the air to reduce illness would be trivial. Bring plenty of hand sanitizer and I think it'll be under control.

Re:MiR? ISS? (3, Informative)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933261)

That brings another problem : if you keep the environment completely pathogen free , the immunity of the people there will drop significantly , since it is not being stimulated.
So , when they come home , they will immediately get sick.

Re:MiR? ISS? (3, Insightful)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933299)

If they come home, dealing with people whose immune systems have been compromised isn't exactly a new or unexplored problem.

Re:MiR? ISS? (1)

Geirzinho (1068316) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933441)

if you keep the environment completely pathogen free , the immunity of the people there will drop significantly , since it is not being stimulated.

[Citation needed]

They would not have antibodies against anything new, but they still have resistence to everything they were exposed to before they left.

IANAMD (I am not an MD), but I don't think the immune system works like muscle mass in that respect...

Re:MiR? ISS? (1)

sadler121 (735320) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934551)

438 day is nothing if NASA uses a VASIMIR rocket, previous stories on Slashdot [slashdot.org] have said they could get there in a 39 days.

Re:MiR? ISS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933229)

Agreed. With current technology we can make a trip to Mars in 3 months when the planets are at their closest. Once people arrive on Mars, they will have gravity again. Even if it is only 1/3 of Earth's that is still enough that people could survive.

Re:MiR? ISS? (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934799)

The space stations are in low earth orbit. So they are protected by the earths magnetic field from lethal cosmic radiation. Without that protection, the human immune system has to battle on too many fronts while being actively weakened by the radiation.

Beware of the dreaded SPACE HERPES!!! (5, Funny)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933033)

This isn't a first post, but it's the only Ice Pirates reference on Slashdot.

Sterile (1)

symes (835608) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933075)

Wouldn't it help to have them in a sterile environment for a prolonged period to make sure they are not taking any particularly nasty microbes on in the first place? Perhaps give them a few shots of antibiotics to be on the safe side? Or even give them some immune boosting drugs to take along. Oh and make sure they take a lot of brocolli with them and that they eat all their vegetables.

Re:Sterile (4, Interesting)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933117)

I'm not an immunologist, but the gist of your post echoes my thoughts. Provided the astronauts are properly isolated prior to a manned mission to Mars, I assume the risk of pathogen transmission would be greatly reduced. Sterilization of all food provisions carried for the mission would be assumed. I understand that we may not have good data on extended periods (read: multiple years) of lack of exposure to commonly encountered pathogens; perhaps the personnel involved would require an extended stay in a gradual re-acclimation environment following their return to Earth. To address concerns over illnesses encountered on the journey, I'd hope that highly trained medical personnel and provisions for proper treatment of a wide range of illnesses would be included in any approved mission protocol.

not possible (3, Insightful)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933127)

While getting rid of salmonella is good, you can't get rid of all disease causing bacteria. And if the environment you live in is too sterile, your body just becomes more susceptible to other infections and to auto-immune disease.

Injecting antibiotics is about the worst thing you can do because it really messes up your bacterial ecology. Bacteria are a natural part of your body, and if you start killing them with antibiotics, things go wrong. Antibiotics should really only be taken when there is a serious infection present.

In addition to artificial gravity (via rotation), the solution may be to challenge the body with other microbes that are known to be not too harmful, similar to "pro-biotic drinks".

Re:Sterile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933277)

Your body contains more bacterial cells than "human" cells.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080603085914.htm

Re:Sterile (3, Interesting)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933955)

Thats what I was thinking. Surely a small capsule with a handful of people surrounded by thousands of miles of near-vacuum is about as close to a clean-room environment as you can get.

Sterilize everything, let them spend a blissful year or two in splendid good health, then worry about their poor shattered immune systems when they get back.

that's an easy one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933091)

that's an easy one: send someone before they've hatched. you just send them in an incubator, and raise them at the destination with the help of strong AI and com links. An egg is much easier to protect from diseases than a grown person...

Sure, piece of cake. (3, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933169)

Of course, by the time we have the technologies you propose, we're just as likely to have ion propulsion that can get us there in less than a month.

-jcr

rotate it (2, Interesting)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933105)

Why not rotate the ship for "artificial gravity"?

Re:rotate it (1)

AniVisual (1373773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933159)

To build a spaceship large enough such that it can be rotated to generate pseudo-gravity will require a degree of construction in space. Logistics demands it. In addition to the space, we also need the resources to boost the materials up into space. So, not feasible in the near future.

Not if the spaceship is inflatable. (4, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933187)

Look into what Bigelow Aerospace is doing. If you spin an inflated structure fast enough to get 1 G of acceleration, it's the same as doing so with a rigid structure.

-jcr

Re:Not if the spaceship is inflatable. (4, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933349)

Look into what Bigelow Aerospace is doing. If you spin an inflated structure fast enough to get 1 G of acceleration, it's the same as doing so with a rigid structure.

So I am not the only one that wants to take something inflatable with me if I have to go to Mars? Excellent.

Re:rotate it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933525)

Jesus christ, its captain obvious! We are talking interplanetary space missions. OF COURSE its not feasible in the near future. Any mission to Mars of significant size will require major construction in space. Duh. Which is one of the missions of our current space programs, getting that experience and ability. We have built a space station you know. In space, with construction workers, in space.

What a retarded comment.

Re:rotate it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933643)

Not necessarily. Two masses tethered together and spun up would do it. Say a big heavy nuclear drive, and the crew module. You have a boost phase, then reel your drive out on the tether, then spin them up. He presto, fake gravity.

Re:rotate it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933163)

Why not rotate the ship for "artificial gravity"?

the rotation speed needed.

Re:rotate it (2, Insightful)

etnoy (664495) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933461)

Works in theory, but a rotating spacecraft would in practice be a horrible experience. To achieve enough "artificial gravity" the angular velocity needs to be pretty high (assuming that the diameter of the spacecraft is much smaller than the diameter of the earth), which in turn generates a lot of coriolis forces. These coriolis forces are not very pleasant. Ever been on a thrill ride in an amusement park? Imagine being stuck in such a rotating thing for more than a limited amount of time...

Re:rotate it (3, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933485)

Put a spinning deck inside the spacecraft. Then the astronuats can run around the rim to get exercise .
Oh and put a manual switch for the pod bay door on the outside of the ship in case the computer runs amok.

meat (3, Insightful)

cl0ckt0wer (973067) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933129)

Why do we care about sending our meatbag selves to other planets? I'd be more productive if we could just send some strong AI to do it for us.

Re:meat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933213)

Because you need somewhere to send your mother-in-law?

Re:meat (5, Insightful)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933373)

You need somewhere to send yourself or life in general, to "diversify your portfolio", to not be "keeping all your eggs in one basket", in case of a catastrophy down here on Earth. In a sense you live for life, to protect life, and to maintain life. If survival of silicon/metal robotic AI machines is sufficient in your opinion as a form of survival of life, without survival of chemical machine humans, animals, plants, then you can just send your AI off to outer space. But the rest of us love nature, trees, animals and our meatbag selves, and would like to see our children, or whatever meatbag stuff evolves from them, and whatever stuff evolves from trees too, survive on forever. That's our job on this planet, so we can die calmly, making sure that others live on. You have a duty of self interest to make sure that you live on, but balanced by a duty of making sure that the whole lives on. What else is the purpose of life? To fuck, shoot, kill, enjoy yourself without paying attention to what and who you cut in the name of your self interest, and bring the whole world down with you when you get pissed because it's your time to go out and depart? You will never die in peace when you make yourself the center of your world. You have to take care of yourself as a taking part in taking care of the whole, but ultimately, you don't live forever. But life, and meat, in general, has a chance to.

It's hard to say what happens when metal/silicon gets smarter than meat. I am meat, and I care about meat, and green plants like trees too. I chop wood, but I want to see trees in general exist forever. In a sense trees are my very distant siblings, and we share a common eukaryote ancestor going back 2 billion years ago. I also care about non eukaryote life, with whom I share a common ancestor going back to 3 billion years ago. Metal/silicon machines and automation that I create can help me get less tired and get things done that I can't do myself, and that's a big deal, but I don't want to make it so good that I have to fight or compete against it, because I know I would lose. One has to be careful with developing super strong AI if one wants to survive. Can cooperation between metal/silicon and meat be guaranteed forever? What happens when a smarter predator than us appears? Will we be to them as chickens are to us? And more importantly, do they get judged the same way during last judgment day as we do and go to the same Inferno or Paradiso that we do for committing sins?

Re:meat (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934119)

Sure, and then the big robot we leave behind to be in charge of the cleanup operation gets crossed with a nuke and goes berserk.

Seriously speaking, I'd rather we stay put and take care of mother earth.

Re:meat (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934863)

Seriously speaking, I'd rather we stay put and take care of mother earth.

Earth doesn't need "care". All of the disruption of mankind is just another event like an good-sized asteroid collision or a big basalt flood event. Merely leaving it alone for a century would eliminate or bind up most pollution. Being "caretakers" for a planet that doesn't need us is a rather pathetic form of existence.

Re:meat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29934819)

But the rest of us love nature, trees, animals and our meatbag selves, and would like to see our children, or whatever meatbag stuff evolves from them, and whatever stuff evolves from trees too, survive on forever.

Forever? No, they'll enjoy a heat death or big crunch and die like everything else. Death is inevitable. Deal with it instead of trying to live forever vicariously.

Re:meat (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934897)

Forever? No, they'll enjoy a heat death or big crunch and die like everything else. Death is inevitable. Deal with it instead of trying to live forever vicariously.

The original poster is both dealing with it and living "forever" vicariously. Why one or the other when you can have your cake and eat it too?

Re:meat (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933469)

> Why do we care about sending our meatbag selves to other planets? I'd be more
> productive if we could just send some strong AI to do it for us.

"The meek shall inherit the Earth. The rest of us shall go on to the stars".

You are more than welcome to stay right there in your mother's basement and watch. You'll be safe and warm. No need to go out into the big scary world at all.

We'll have to invent sanitation droids... (1, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933133)

to keep things sterile...

Prototype here:
http://www.sitcomsonline.com/photopost/data/813/kryten2.jpg [sitcomsonline.com]

Re:We'll have to invent sanitation droids... (1)

tnmc (446963) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933253)

But we need bacteria to live and digest food...sterility will kill us as surely as more vigorous bacteria. The real question this story raises is how to adapt spacecraft and spaceflight to create more human friendly environments.

Re:We'll have to invent sanitation droids... (0, Offtopic)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933357)

Fucking hell. Has slashdot just plain lost its sense of humour? If that wasn't an obvious joke, what the hell is? Instead I get -1 overrated and a serious response.

Well, ain't it a bitch. (3, Insightful)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933145)

Maybe we're meant to be on Earth after all? The conditions seem just fine, ... for now at least.

But please, send more robots first. They can do a lot more with a lot less controversy.

Re:Well, ain't it a bitch. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933475)

> Maybe we're meant to be on Earth after all?

"Meant" by who?

Re:Well, ain't it a bitch. (1)

Johnno74 (252399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933853)

Yeah but the way things are going the conditions might not be "just fine" one day, and we should be practicing with closed mini-biospheres and things now.

Long Duration Space Flight (5, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933149)

There have been ISS Expeditions that have lasted times comparable to at least one way to Mars - Expeditions 4, 6, 8 and 13 at least. There is no microbiological difference between orbiting the Earth and going to Mars, so I would conclude that people should be able to get to Mars just fine.

I still think that truly deep space exploration will require artificial gravity (i.e., spinning spacecraft), but this sounds like FUD to justify research funds to me.

Re:Long Duration Space Flight (2, Informative)

cobbaut (232092) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934133)

There is no microbiological difference between orbiting the Earth and going to Mars

Yes there is, ISS gets air resupply regularly!!

Re:Long Duration Space Flight (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934861)

Because air is lost. The human waste in the air is scrubbed and O2 is generated inside the ISS. This is all engineering driven, and I don't see the slightest reason why the same engineering wouldn't be used on any near-term deep space mission.

3 Progress flights per year carry something like 9 tons of supplies to the ISS (that includes propellant, by the way). I don't see why carrying along 9 tons of supplies along on a deep space mission is any different from a biological point of view.

increased colonization (1)

MelodicMotives (724089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933157)

Sounds like a good thing!

What pussies we've become. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933197)

Boy how would those trips compare to early the first voyages to the "New World", except that they will probably be more clean, more antiseptic, and their health will be monitored much more closely.

What's worse tuill now no one has pointed this out. What pussies we've become.

Re:What pussies we've become. (4, Insightful)

srothroc (733160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933341)

A lot (lot) of people died on those first voyages to the New World. Entire ships were lost as well. I don't think anyone wants to send boatloads of astronauts in an expensive investment without guaranteeing that they'll arrive in one piece.

Re:What pussies we've become. (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933455)

They didn't know there were things as microbes (or that you need to have a diet with vitamin C to avoid scurvy).

They sure knew there was a risk in taking the travel (as there was a risk in every sea travel), but I am pretty sure too that, had they know about these things, they would have taken steps to avoid/minimize the risks.

Don't take ignorance for courage.

Re:What pussies we've become. (1)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933541)

There was a large demand to get to the "New World" to both flee persecution and make money. Many individuals, corporations, and governments could see a tangible opportunity worth the risk.

Few people want to flee Earth at the moment, and getting to Mars is still a rather poor monetary investment.

Duh, freezer compartment ? (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933227)

Have you guys never used the Freezer before ? Seems to slow down bacterial growth very well...

Re:Duh, freezer compartment ? (1)

vxvxvxvx (745287) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933235)

Even better are those double seal ziploc bags. If we put the astronauts into one of those they'll stay good for months.

Diseases never prevented long distance travels (3, Insightful)

Fuzzzy (967665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933297)

The conquistadors at the 15th century were able to travel long distances on ships full of diseases, and yet conquered and eliminated the native civilizations of America. Diseases may be a difficulty, but they won't prevent space travel.

Life was Expendable (1)

The MESMERIC (766636) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933367)

In those times.

If they lost 30% of the crew, that wasn't considered to be such a big deal.

But imagine the impact today:

When losing 10% of your armed forced during a war is considered way too much.

Re:Diseases never prevented long distance travels (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933409)

Actually, the conquistadors' diseases helped them to conquer and eliminate the native civilizations of America.

Who knows, maybe our first gift to aliens, when we first meet them, will be some of the nasty critters in the human body.

On the other hand, maybe when we reach Mars, we might run into some kind of Andromeda Strain.

"Yippee! We discovered life on Mars! Um, but its not quite how we imagined it."

Re:Diseases never prevented long distance travels (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933467)

It isn't a particularly likely scenario. One of the key factors that helped the conquistadors diseases thrive in the Americas is that the human bodies they encountered were quite familiar; aliens might be bizarrely similar to humans, but if they aren't, the diseases aren't going to bother them much (even something like the flu virus, which is quite good at jumping between species isn't really all that successful at it, and for all we know, aliens wouldn't be anywhere near as similar to us as pigs are...).

Re:Diseases never prevented long distance travels (1)

phonewebcam (446772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933411)

Those same diseases were what killed many of the people they "conquered", the natives having no immunity to them at all.

Re:Diseases never prevented long distance travels (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934145)

The disease helped them conquer the natives.

Kinda irrelevant .. (1)

guacamole (24270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933439)

.. given that sending humans to Mars is pretty much a 99.99% waste of everyone's resources. As well all know, can do science research on Mars at a fraction of the cost of sending a space shuttle into a week lond trip around earth, much less the cost of the human mission that has a chance of reaching Mars. And don't tell me the B.S. about colonizing Mars. Earth will remain hospitable for life for hundreds of millions of years. If there is going to be some kind of catastrophe on Earth, it's far more likely that we could deal with it on earth (at least to extent of saving the human race) than making Mars, which is a dead wasteland right now, viable for continuing human life.

Do you not comprehend the GRAVITY of the situation (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933451)

Then don't have em in Zero-G , Spinning parts of the ship etc, if it's too hard to build it here make it so a part of the ship "expands" once in orbit. There, no zero-G no viral problems!

don't send fags. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933483)

those bitches got all the diseases because they eat shit out of other faggot asses and suck their own shit off of other faggot dicks.

Nancy boy from Nancy University . . . (2, Funny)

pacergh (882705) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933493)

I'm just saying, maybe those Nancy frenchmen have weak immune systems, but I don't see a problem for us Americans.

Problem solved. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933521)

Two words: hand sanitizer.

Docs in Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933527)

What this post is suggesting is that the type of astronaut and the type of medicine practiced needs to be revisited. Is there now a need to send astronaut doctors as part of the mission team? Will discoveries made on these missions translate to new and better medical treatments here on terra firma? There have been plenty of other spin offs from the space program, why not [at least] one more?

Cryogenic Suspension (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933533)

What about cryogenic suspension? That would be one way of dealing with the issue. We could either rotate the crew in suspension or do the Alien thing where the computer just wakes everyone up once they get there.

I saw it on Star Trek too...so it must be true.

Faster Spaceships (1, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933717)

The answer is to build a faster spaceship. We need to have nuclear powered craft of some sort. The distances are simply too vast for chemical rockets. You could spend billions trying to study all the ways to keep people up in space safely for two years and probably still screw it up. The enemy is time, so solve that problem, and everything else will fall into place. That at least can get us around the solar system, and there should be enough materials in that to build some sort of an interstellar craft for extremely long range missions.

That's why you need a *big* spaceship. (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933739)

For interstellar travel, you need a big spaceship with:

a) nuclear propulsion that can accelerate the spacecraft to relativistic needs.

b) a nuclear power source, so as that the ship does not remain out of power for a long time; plus, you can run an electromagnetic shield around the craft, just like Earth has one.

c) artificial gravity with rotating sections.

d) landing craft.

e) a large sick bay.

This last item comes handy when there is sickness and disease. Furthermore, a big spaceship minimizes the chances of infection.

This craft will not land on planets. It will be constructed in orbit. It will cost trillions, but once it is built and goes operational, man can travel to other planets of our solar system with ease.

Re:That's why you need a *big* spaceship. (2, Insightful)

master_p (608214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933767)

By the way, if USA did not engage in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it would have the money to build that spaceship *by itself*.

Re:That's why you need a *big* spaceship. (2, Insightful)

Purpendicular (528740) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934475)

Bollocks. The US could build rockets if it wanted to. The US used to spend 6% of GDP on the military during the cold war. Britain spend 50% of GDP on the military during the second world war.
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are small drops in the ocean compared to such ventures.

Also, remove 100 billion $ from the trial lawyers.

And drill, baby, drill!

It could also have done as Harding did in 1920-21 recession. He cut the budget in half between 1920-22. And the national debt by 1/3. The result turned out to be the roaring 20-ies. The recession disappeared so quickly that nobody remembers it now.

http://ezinearticles.com/?Warren-G-Harding-and-the-1920-Depression---Learning-the-Right-Lesson&id=3121606 [ezinearticles.com]

During the space race, 400 000 people in the US worked on the Apollo project.

Re:That's why you need a *big* spaceship. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29934637)

Yeah, you're right. We should have left Al Quada do their thing in Afghanistan and just accepted that that's just the way life is when a few more planes hit more buildings in our cities. What a great plan!

Re:That's why you need a *big* spaceship. (0, Flamebait)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934825)

Troll. You know damn well by know that your own government flew windowless, unmarked military planes into your precious WTC. You must all have seen the film by now, and you've heard the female bystander in the footage who exclaims "That is not American Airlines" and can see just what we see - dark gray fuselage, no windows, and NO LOGO!

Yet your representatives still troll anybody who suggests your stupid wars were a waste of money. Go fuck yourself, Government shill.

NOT POSTED AC. Prove me wrong.

Re:That's why you need a *big* spaceship. (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934667)

All of the other items might be without our power, but we do not know how to do this :

a) nuclear propulsion that can accelerate the spacecraft to relativistic needs.

Let's consider two candidates - Project Orion [wikipedia.org] , with an effective exhaust velocity of maybe 30 km / sec (10^-4 c) , and the Project Daedalus [wikipedia.org] design, with an effective exhaust velocity of 10,000 km / sec (0.03 c). Suppose we wanted to travel at 0.1 c - landing at the far end means the total delta v is 0.2 c (60,000 km/sec). (Note that Daedalus assumed a design speed of 0.12 c, and so needed a higher mass ratio). Finally, assume that the actual spaceship payload weight (i.e., the space for the people and life support and any instrumentation) is 1000 tons (the ISS is currently 300 tons). Using the rocket equation [wikipedia.org] , and assuming no weight is needed for propellant tanks,

- the Orion design has a mass ratio (initial over final mass) of 10^434 , and is just wildly impossible.

- the Daedalus design has a mass ratio of 786, thus an initial mass of almost a megaton - but this assumes carrying 1 megaton of fuel with no fuel tanks, which is completely unrealistic. The REPRO version of Daedalus (which allowed for the deceleration of a 443 ton payload) had a design weight in Earth orbit of 10 million tons.

So, Daedalus is an engineering possibility, maybe, for flights to the stars in a human lifetime. Note that this requires megatons of Helium-3, all of which has got to be mined outside the Earth (as our Helium is all Helium-4), and there are various other engineering difficulties, but I could see a major global effort, say of the scale of World War II, producing Daedalus ships.

If you want to get to close to 1 c, say 0.9 c, and then decelerate at the far end, the Daedalus design would require a mass ratio of 10^26, which is not feasible. The only way we know of to do that is with anti-matter. Given that we neither know how to product and store significant quantities of anti-matter, nor how to turn it into a working rocket, I have to conclude that we have no feasible means of creating a relativistic spaceship at present. Generation ships, yes, if we wanted to. But not relativistic ships.

And the Martian says ... (1)

athomascr (851385) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933773)

... the Terrans were killed off by the common cold.

How is the reason not blatantly obvious? (0, Troll)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933981)

They don't exactly grow their food in space. So fresh food is rare. And no. Neither heated, nor frozen food suffices in the long term. Let alone the total trash that is what we call "normal food". Meaning everything that's processed ...and processed again, ...until it's more a chemo-cocktail, with tons of wrecked proteins, destroyed molecules, and all vital substances out of balance, than species-appropriate food.

Sorry, but as long as you keep that mentality, and shoot "normal" "food" (according to the average joe or the food chemist) into space, people will, just as on sailing ships, become sick of many various things. Just like we do down here. But much quicker. We call them "age-related" diseases, because we think they come because of age. When in reality, they come *with* age. Because of decades of eating trash.

Re:How is the reason not blatantly obvious? (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934641)

Can I be the first to say, what utter bollocks.

Human life expectancy is the longest it has ever been, despite all this "trash" we apparently stuff ourselves with.

It only took a matter of minutes to pull this data off Wikipedia, criticise my source if you will, or find a better one ... nethertheless, here is the average life expectancy during periods of human development.

Upper Paleolithic 33
Neolithic 20
Bronze Age 18
Bronze age, Sweden 40-60
Classical Greece 20-30
Classical Rome 20-30
Pre-Columbian North America 25-30
Medieval Islamic Caliphate 35+
Medieval Britain 20-30
Early 20th Century 30-40
Current world average 65

So unless you are living in Bronze Age Sweden (which seems to have been a particularly good period of history ... perhaps it's all the herring they ate ?), we've never had it so good.

Before spouting off your new-age grass-eating hippy bullshit, please try and check a few facts first.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29934093)

Remember. Flies spread disease. So keep yours closed.

Use Nuclear rockets (2, Informative)

Purpendicular (528740) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934165)

It is really sad that nuclear rockets were abandoned when the space race was won by the US against the Russians. Nuclear rockets consist of a reactor that heats hydrogen that is accelerated.
A nuclear rocket would take 3 months to get to mars, 3 months back. Back in 1970, 400 M $ were missing to get the first one off the ground as a third stage of an Apollo rocket.
The theoretical useful weight for a nuclear rocket is 38% of the total that can go up in space, compared to 4% for a chemical rocket.
Nerva-2 would have developped 5000 MW and 90 tonnes of lift. Nerva-1 had already been tested on the ground. 1100 MW and 25 ton lift.
As soon as the Chinese threaten to do this, the US might be back in the race. One can always hope.
The plan in the early 1970ies was to send two of these off to Mars (for obvious redundancy purposes).

Inevitable. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29934203)

It's God's will.

The premise is already outdated. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29934217)

I hate these articles which ignore the reality that humans have already discovered anti-gravity propulsion and that humans have already walked Mars. Who cares if disease was or never was an issue? Postings like these are nothing more than propaganda designed to reinforce the mainstream lies regarding the status of human/humanoid activity in space.

District 9 explained (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29934469)

That explains why the District 9's "prawns" got sick...

Maybe they knew this in the 1970's (0, Troll)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934673)

Could this be the reason that the Apollo program was filmed in an abandoned aircraft hanger in Arizona?

Risk Shmisk (1)

Scotland Tom (974094) | more than 4 years ago | (#29934989)

Because humankind should never embark on a long journey when the threat of sickness (or hunger, or environmental dangers, or giant monsters) looms. Come on. If, as a species, we didn't take risks we'd either still be stuck in caves or dead.

NASA needs to get their heads out of their rear ends and stop dinking around with robots and probes and experiments that might possibly be useful sometime in the future when there's a plan. They need to set big, definitive goals to get mankind back on the moon and out to Mars and work towards those ends. Otherwise they might as well rename themselves the NAA and stop squandering taxpayer dollars on space all together.
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