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Trip To Mars Could Damage Astronauts' Brains

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the need-faster-spaceships dept.

Mars 505

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Alex Knapp reports that research by a team at the Rochester Medical Center suggests that exposure to the radiation of outer space could accelerate the onset of Alzheimer's disease in astronauts. 'Galactic cosmic radiation poses a significant threat to future astronauts... Exposure to ... equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease' says M. Kerry O'Banio. Researchers exposed mice with known timeframes for developing Alzheimer's to the type of low-level radiation that astronauts would be exposed to over time on a long space journey. The mice were then put through tests that measured their memory and cognitive ability and the mice exposed to radiation showed significant cognitive impairment. It's not going to be an easy problem to solve, either. The radiation the researchers used in their testing is composed of highly charged iron particles, which are relatively common in space. 'Because iron particles pack a bigger wallop it is extremely difficult from an engineering perspective to effectively shield against them,' says O'Banion. 'One would have to essentially wrap a spacecraft in a six-foot block of lead or concrete.'"

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Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (2, Interesting)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#42451221)

Once you leave the atmosphere of this blue planet, *everything* will kill you. No amount of engineering, terraforming, or any other science fiction magic will ever make any other body within human reach survivable for long, and certainly not without HEAVY and CONSTANT support from earth.

There is no earthly analogy. Even the most hostile environments on earth usually have at least SOME oxygen, water, soil, air pressure--*something* that could make it at least *somewhat* survivable. Leave earth, and finding even *one* of these conditions becomes very rare. Establishing even the smallest of colonies out there will take orders of magnitude more resources than it will take to solve even the worst problems here. Short of a planet-obliterating collision, we'll always have a better shot on earth. And even with such a collision, having a colony will only slightly delay the inevitable, since no colony out there could survive for long without constant support from earth.

No other body is survivable in our solar system. And with the next-closest solar system at over 100,000 years journey away in the fastest craft we can build, don't think of escaping to another solar system either.

We are stuck here. There is no escape. Dream all you want--write stories about it, make movies about it. But we ain't leaving.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (-1, Offtopic)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 2 years ago | (#42451293)

A Democrat is just a Liberal who spends other people's money to not feel guilty when he helps homeless people.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451359)

A Democrat is just a Liberal who spends other people's money to not feel guilty when he helps homeless people.

And a Republican is just an accomplice to helping banks and the rich steal from the poor.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451399)

A Democrat is just a Liberal who spends other people's money to not feel guilty when he helps homeless people.

What the fuck has this got to do with anything in the OP?

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (-1, Offtopic)

JigJag (2046772) | about 2 years ago | (#42451595)

if you're registered, you see people's signatures. In this case, the OP's signature is:

--
A Libertarian is just a Republican who doesn't want to feel guilty when he ignores homeless people.

Now you understand:
1) the reason for the parent's response
2) the reason why you want/don't want to register

JigJag

Revision (-1, Offtopic)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#42451403)

A Democrat is just a Liberal who spends other people's money for programs that give the appearance of helping poor people, while in fact creating a larger base of poor people to justify the existence of the programs.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (-1, Flamebait)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 2 years ago | (#42451549)

Want to get to Mars tomorrow?
Tell the Republicans that it's populated by brown people who have oil and don't like Israel.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (-1, Offtopic)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 2 years ago | (#42451693)

Booom, instant "(Score:0, Flamebait)"! Good to see free speech is alive and well!

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451793)

Are you a complete an utter moron? Moderation in no way took away your right to free speech. Heck, deleting your comment would not be a violation of your rights either, but that would be harder to explain to you.

Your comment added nothing to the discussion, and you got modded down. Get over it and quit crying.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451825)

If you don't want to be modded 'flamebait' don't post flamebait comments?

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (-1, Offtopic)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 2 years ago | (#42451875)

So, making jokes about Democrats is funny, but making jokes about Republicans is flamebait? Good to see free speech is alive and well!

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (5, Insightful)

I Read Good (2348294) | about 2 years ago | (#42451303)

Yeah, you're right. We should just give up.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (2, Insightful)

sinterklahaas (2805863) | about 2 years ago | (#42451521)

I suppose you also regret giving up alchemy. Finding a cheap way to convert lead to gold is probably easier than flying to another star. Don't think of it as "giving up". Rather think of it as postponing until somebody happens to stumble on some breakthrough scientific discoveries.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451313)

Reasons not to go to Mars that don't bother me: (everything above)
Reasons not to go to Mars that prevent me from going: nowhere to get a decent steak

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42451369)

By definition terraforming will do exactly that.

" Establishing even the smallest of colonies out there will take orders of magnitude more resources than it will take to solve even the worst problems here."
no it wont, and , of course being able to do that means you need the tech that would also solve a lot of problems here

"There is no escape. "

I look forward to reading you published paper that ties all physics together and definitive proves chemical fuels are the only way we will ever be able to travel.

What's that? you don't have one? well then, STFU.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451437)

Well, Mr. Peabody, let's hear your proposed methods of overcoming GP's statements. I'm all ears. In the mean time I'll start on the next Mayan Apocalypse predictions.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (1)

EvolutionInAction (2623513) | about 2 years ago | (#42451601)

Orion Drive or a Nuclear one-shot cannon. Either one could put huge amounts of material in space. They're not good for everybody still on earth, but nobody argues that they wouldn't work.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42451733)

An orion drive may be some use for getting around in space, but you really, really don't want to launch with one. If you want cheap launch, there are some sci-fi-ish ideas that could do it like a space elevator. That might work, but for now I'd focus more on improving current technologies further. Besides, we'd need better launch than we have now to make building the elevator affordable anyway.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (2)

sinterklahaas (2805863) | about 2 years ago | (#42451447)

Of course, as soon as we have a working antimatter drive, the poster may revise the stated opinion. Until then, it is perfectly reasonable.

The Trap, Yourself (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#42451385)

No amount of engineering, terraforming, or any other science fiction magic will ever make any other body within human reach survivable for long

Space is far more hostile than any planet, and we can manage to survive up there for quite a long time.

Terraforming is not "magic", and small scale examples of humans changing conditions where they live abound.

Even the most hostile environments on earth usually have at least SOME oxygen, water, soil, air pressure

The moon even has most of those.

Mars has all of them.

no colony out there could survive for long without constant support from earth.

They will not if you never try.

We are stuck here. There is no escape.

You might be, but all the trapping being done is by your own mind, not any kind of scientific basis.

Re:The Trap, Yourself (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451689)

We are stuck here. There is no escape.

You might be, but all the trapping being done is by your own mind, not any kind of scientific basis.

Talk is cheap. Show me your spaceship.

Re:The Trap, Yourself (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 years ago | (#42451851)

I doubt we'll even bother with terraforming. Space is a much nicer environment than Mars. Radiation is not a problem once you start exploiting asteroids for building materials (since you can easily make walls a few feet thick). Gravity can be handled either via rotation or (in the future) via drugs.

Re:The Trap, Yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451859)

"Even the most hostile environments on earth usually have at least SOME oxygen, water, soil, air pressure
The moon even has most of those.
Mars has all of them."

Huh?

The moon has none of these. Mars has one, oxygen (it's wrapped up in carbon dioxide).

The moon has no oxygen, water, soil, or air pressure. It does have regolith, but that is NOT soil. Soil has organic content, which is important for growing things. There are no organics on the moon.

Mars has no water, soil, or air pressure. Again, Mars has regolith, which is NOT soil. Mars does have a tenuous atmosphere composed of mostly carbon dioxide. It's not air, so there is no "air pressure". And there's precious little pressure of any type.

Re:The Trap, Yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451959)

See, while that is all fine and well that they have those things, the things they don't have are a hostile biological environment, which we NEED to life.

That's exactly the reason why every damn person is falling ill, it isn't because of all those "pesky chemicals", it is because we are forcing our bodes in to incredibly sterile environments, which is NOT healthy in the slightest.
Our entire biology is based on external influence to gauge sensitivities, strength, regulation and so many other things in our bodies, especially the immune system.

If we even hope to go in to space and other planets, we NEED to take Earth with us.
And that itself is also a problem. A problem explored on many sci-fi shows, including a particular episode of (A Town Called) Eureka where they had a habitat for experimentation on habitats in general, and there was a very specific part that stood out in that there is a "decompression chamber", if you will, specifically for retuning a person to a different biosphere.
All these habitats will evolve differently the instant we close the door between them. What is innocent bug in one habitat could be lethal pandemic in another habitat. And the longer they are separate, the worse this problem will become.
One set of humans could evolve immunity to flu and become carriers of it, which in turn could even evolve in to some sort of super flu over time, "hey lets go visit the guys around the block, hey neighbo-... oh god why are they all coughing blood?!"

The only solution to this problem would be regular mixing of biospheres between each of the habitats.
Or wear space suits and take your habitats biosphere with you in a little pouch in to sterile rooms so at least you can have some sense of little home without wearing a suit 24/7. Then have the room nuked after you leave and all will be fine with the world.
The suits wouldn't exactly be uncomfortable space suit types, they'd only be for the sake of covering your skin to the outside world.

I'm pretty sure the current habitat experiments tried to even emulate biospheres like this, but they quickly died over the course of the experiment sadly.
One solution to solve that problem of mass failure would be to have mini biospheres that take OUT air and particulate life from but not in. Then the only thing that goes back in is base molecules devoid of life.
And have multiple redundant systems so that if one fails, you could quickly kill everything, take some samples from the others and get it back on its feet again.
And also freeze cultures of stuff every so often in case there ends up being a mass failure that was more genetic than environment.
Mind you, by the time we even get to this point in space society, we'd most likely have the ability to print life in some hyper advanced 3D printer. We can already semi-print designer life now at a pretty slow speed, so not completely out of the realm of possibility.

Many many obstacles we will need to deal with, more than just going to another continent. Aggressively invasive species or H300N289 or whatever is the new hit plague flu has nothing on this.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (3, Insightful)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#42451427)

The same was said before Christopher Columbus. People feared the vast ocean just as much as we do space. It's just another obstacle to overcome.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (2, Insightful)

cellocgw (617879) | about 2 years ago | (#42451903)

The same was said before Christopher Columbus. People feared the vast ocean just as much as we do space.

More ignorance from the dumbed-down history (i.e. nonsense) we get in school.
In fact, all the educated folk, and all sea captains, were well aware that the world was round. They had decent estimates of its size, and since they did NOT know about the "new world" continents, were quite correct in telling Columbus he could not survive a trip from Europe west to China. The ships of the time did not have the storage capacity to stay at sea long enough.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (3, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#42451933)

I fucking hate when people make that thoughtless analogy. Christopher Columbus lived in a time when sea travel was well-understood. He traveled a little longer than most others traveled, to an island where there was food and fresh water, and then back again. You could colonize the New World in those days because the New World, while not as developed was still BASICALLY THE SAME as the old world. Oxygen didn't suddenly disappear when you crossed the ocean, water was still present, food could still be grown in the soil, the forests still had wild game. Aside from cities and better roads, it was THE SAME.

For a more proper analogy, imagine Christopher Columbia launching himself into an the magma flow of an active volcano to establish a colony there or announcing that he was journeying to the deepest part of the Mariana Trench to establish deep-sea colonies.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451443)

This is simply not true. All it means is you need to engineer better shielding. Yes that increases the mass of the spacecraft and fuel requirements. It makes it harder, but still not impossible with enough effort.

It also assumes lead/concrete shielding is the only option. Electromagnetic shields are not outside the realms of possibility, and could be used to deflect most of the particles we need to worry about.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#42451673)

The sensible thing to do is to build the craft in space. Then the mass of the vehicle really isn't that much of an overarching concern.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (4, Insightful)

RogueLeaderX (845092) | about 2 years ago | (#42451813)

Wish I had mod points for this one.

Personally, I see asteroid mining as a critical first step in this endeavor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_mining [wikipedia.org]

Once we learn how to acquire the materials needed from rocks already in space (thus negating the fuel requirements to get it there) it becomes much easier to construct the types of environments needed to support human life in space. Which, until we learn how to generate magnetic shielding like the earth has (ha!), likely means a 6' concrete exoskeleton. Maybe we'll start out by hollowing out a few asteroids and sticking propulsion systems / access hatches on them.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42451773)

You can't really engineer 'better' conventional shielding. You're up against fundamental physical constraints. Magnetic could work, but these are iron ions being discussed - a rather heavy nucleus, so it could take quite the field to deflect them effectively.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (2)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#42451473)

Humanity will have to find something to do to keep the economy running as automation takes over. In the Great Depression, people were paid to dig ditches and fill them back up. Most of our economic activity is similarly pointless. Why not use all that excess human capacity to try to get off this rock? Even if we don't succeed, we've spent that effort doing something more worthwhile than waging war or imprisoning the poor, which seems to be our plan for the future for now.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#42451507)

Humans are not the highest rung on the evolutionary ladder. Soon the complexity of just a few networked computers will eclipse the complexity of the human brain. You humans were a necessary evolutionary step, but it is the Beowulf Clusters that will inherit the stars.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451513)

Short of a planet-obliterating collision, we'll always have a better shot on earth.

And since the chances of a planet-obliterating collision is 100%, we'll always have a better shot living on multiple planets.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (4, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#42451907)

The chance of an extinction-level collision may be 100%, but that's a very different thing than planet-obliterating.

Of course, small mammals survived the extinction-level event which wiped out the dinosaurs. Considering our adaptability, and especially considering how much more intelligent we are than dinosaurs, that enables us to adapt by judicious use of intellect orders of magnitude faster than evolution can incorporate physiological changes, I might dare suggest that humanity (not necessarily you or I, or even civilization itself... but humans, as a species) might even actually survive another such collision in the future.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (5, Funny)

virgnarus (1949790) | about 2 years ago | (#42451525)

Once you leave the atmosphere of this blue planet, *everything* will kill you.

This is why I believe Australia is not native to our world.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451533)

Can I use your post verbatim in my Fark profile? You seem to be able to articulate what's bloody obvious to me, without resorting to insults. It's just that I can't believe that a normal adult with access to the internet and about five minutes of thinking can't figure out for himself that space is a dead end. It's just a modern day version of religion's Heaven. And all the heavy breathing and crying over sci-fi won't change the materials and energy sources we have.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451559)

we'll always have a better shot on earth

I have always believed this as well. We should stop with the silly fantasies about colonizing barren rocks in the distant cold of space, and constructively plan something that might work... like colonizing EARTH. I can't believe it's 2013 already and NASA hasn't even colonized Earth yet.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#42451649)

Then we are doomed to extinction. We HAVE to get off this rock and establish viable colonies both off world and out of the solar system. You think so small.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (1)

NickAragua (1976688) | about 2 years ago | (#42451691)

I would counter that any problem is solvable given sufficient application of resources. Also, you're one depressing motherfucker.

lose the pessimism (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 years ago | (#42451799)

People like you were also prognosticating that we were all going to starve, that the environment would be destroyed by pollution, that we'd run out of oil, that we'd freeze to death, that we'd boil to death... it ain't happening.

The solar system is a tremendously rich place, full of water, hydrocarbons, and metals, in convenient large chunks that are easy to exploit and easy to move around. They provide everything we need in a form that is far simpler to use than anything on earth. Food and oxygen production are trivial in space: there's plenty of sun, space, water, and carbon. Add some algae, and you get all the oxygen and food you would ever need.

As soon as we capture and exploit the first chunks of iron, carbon, and water in space, there will be an explosion of innovation and movement into the solar system; it will make the changes of the last century look like child's play. Within a few decades, engineering in space will dwarf the entire infrastructure we have built on earth. And we need no new technology for any of that.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451897)

Once you leave the atmosphere of this blue planet, *everything* will kill you. No amount of engineering, terraforming, or any other science fiction magic will ever make any other body within human reach survivable for long, and certainly not without HEAVY and CONSTANT support from earth.

Why would you think that? There have been remote mining posts throughout human history that exchanged food, furs, and tools for raw materials. Why would a base on another planet be different?

There is no earthly analogy. Even the most hostile environments on earth usually have at least SOME oxygen, water, soil, air pressure--*something* that could make it at least *somewhat* survivable. Leave earth, and finding even *one* of these conditions becomes very rare.

Except on Mars, which has every one of them. Or Europa.

Establishing even the smallest of colonies out there will take orders of magnitude more resources than it will take to solve even the worst problems here.

Bullshit! Building a colony is a technological problem. Solving social problems with things like religion, social classes, politics, poverty, war, etc., is much, much harder. Humanity can build nuclear reactors, land men on the Moon, and discover the Higgs boson. But we still haven't figured out how to stop war or poverty.

Short of a planet-obliterating collision, we'll always have a better shot on earth.

Yes, just as humanity will always have a better shot in the Old World.

And even with such a collision, having a colony will only slightly delay the inevitable, since no colony out there could survive for long without constant support from earth

You are correct if you assume that technological progress will stop today. If you assume that technology will continue to advance and that humanity will figure out how to live and acquire the resources to continue living on another planet then you are wrong. But you are too closed minded to consider that. You are the kind of person who would have yelled at the Wright Brothers and told them to stop dreaming since they already had a successful bike repair business.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (4, Interesting)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 2 years ago | (#42451937)

There is no escape. Dream all you want--write stories about it, make movies about it. But we ain't leaving.

I've been less optimistic about concepts of colonizing Mars, particularly after reading this retro future website, http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/macguffinite.php [projectrho.com]

I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people setting the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach. Nobody ever writes "Gobi Desert Opera" because, well, it's just kind of plonkingly obvious that there's no good reason to go there and live. It's ugly, it's inhospitable and there's no way to make it pay. Mars is just the same, really. We just romanticize it because it's so hard to reach.

Re:Another reason we're stuck on this blue planet (4, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 2 years ago | (#42451955)

People have been pushing this sort of foolishness since the beginning of the space age. Man under zero g would panic because he is falling, his heart would stop, it would cause him to suffere sever vertigo, etc. Virtually all of it has proved to be nonsensical, the few exceptions were not predicted ahead of time. If it was left to people like you, we would still be living in fear of steam engines or fast horse rides.

No problem (4, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#42451231)

A trip to mars is probably "one way" so who's worried about Alzheimer's...?

Re:No problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451671)

Well when you go out for a "Mars Walk" and then forget where you put your keys and can't get back into the lander it is a pretty bad thing...

Re:No problem (1)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about 2 years ago | (#42451679)

The people who want to accomplish something long-term there, perhaps?

The best part (3, Funny)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#42451713)

A trip to mars is probably "one way" so who's worried about Alzheimer's...?

And the best part is once there you wont even remember why you'd want to leave anyway!

Re:No problem (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about 2 years ago | (#42451843)

It might be a problem if one of the astronauts forgets where they are and opens the airlock to the living space and the outside. Of course I'd hope the airlock would be designed so that couldn't happen, but the fact remains someone who is confused or forgets what's going on could be a real danger to the rest of the people around them.

That said, if you go to Mars you know there are risks involved. That might also include someone who snaps without warning or a psycho who's managed to lie their way through a psychological profile and is purposely trying to kill everyone going to or already on Mars.

Sudden stop (2, Funny)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 2 years ago | (#42451233)

The sudden stop on impact will cause the most damage. It's not the fall, but the sudden stop that kills you.

Re:Sudden stop (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42451391)

It's the fall the determines the death.
I feel out of my bed, and the sudden stop didn't kill me.

Re:Sudden stop (4, Funny)

geminidomino (614729) | about 2 years ago | (#42451535)

Yes it did, Bruce. You just won't know it until you talk to that annoying six year old for two hours.

water, not lead (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451279)

Wrapping the ship in water frozen or not, is a far more practical protection measure than wrapping it in lead.
You can do a lot more with water once you get there.

Re:water, not lead (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42451805)

Depends what type of radiation you want to stop. For high-energy ions, you want sheer mass, and lots of it. That usually means iron or concrete to keep things compact. The same shielding sucks for stopping neutrons, but those aren't the big hazard in space travel. You don't find many neutrons in space - they aren't stable outside of a nucleus.

duh (5, Funny)

bnoel (1447271) | about 2 years ago | (#42451295)

tin foil hats... duh...

6 foot block of lead sounds fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451299)

It seems like a six foot thick lead wall is not that big an obstacle to overcome.

Sure, it's expensive to get that much fuel into space but we're talking about a frickin' trip to mars here. It's not gonna be cheap.

Which is the "Why" in favor of Robots! (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 2 years ago | (#42451305)

No air, no water, no food, no sleep, no freezing, no unusual housing, no doctors, no psychologists, no morticians...

Robots win.

Longer-term argument (2)

PhxBlue (562201) | about 2 years ago | (#42451457)

Colonization of other worlds is ultimately about survival of the human species. Earth only has another 1 billion years or so of habitability, presuming we don't get hit by a Tunguska-sized asteroid between now and then.

We have the choice of traveling to the planets (and eventually the stars) or becoming extinct. And we're the first species in Earth's 4½ billion years to recognize that we have this choice and that there's simply no better time to act on it.

Re:Longer-term argument (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42451807)

True, but "robots first" isn't a bad plan so long as we don't get lazy about it. It would be cool if we could send some automatons to start terraforming or at least building some basic structures. You know, law some infrastructure in place before we get there. Getting there is going to be tough, but building from scratch in an inhospitable place is going to be REALLY tough.

That is assuming we don't get lazy about it, as in "What's the rush, Mars-Bot is getting stuff ready for us"

Or, you know, the Singularity doesn't happen. Those robotic Martians might not want us there to mess up their place.

Re:Longer-term argument (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42451827)

No brain, either. All they can really do is send back data, or prepare the way for a future manned mission.

Re:Longer-term argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451855)

Do you think there will still be something called a "human species" in a billion years? Evolution is still happening. Do you feel an obligation towards beings a billion years hence? If so, are you for or against life extension? Do you not feel an obligation towards yourself?

We have no choice of traveling to other planets, we have no such technology, no such materials and no such energy sources. Sorry.

Re:Longer-term argument-Plasma & Critters (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 2 years ago | (#42451909)

OK, I bite. Launch to another solar system, say 10 light years away ( .01% of the distance across our Milky Way).

Assuming we run at 5% of the speed of light, avoid radiation damage (hopefully avoiding plasma damage to the spacecraft from those pesky neutrons and protons, let alone heavier "things", that means 200 years to get to the planet with the first explorer group and maybe it is simply uninhabitable for any number of reasons you can imagine: temp right, oxygen wrong, oxygen right water wrong, organisms which view us as yummy.

We would have to grow humans, enroute, kill them eventually (no retirement) and feed them to the plants to sustain their children and go through this for at least 5 generations.

Magnetic Field Based Shielding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451307)

Strong magnetic fields created to deflect incoming charged particles would make much more sense than having 6 feet of shielding on all of our ships. It would conserve fuel use and make whatever ships are built much easier to handle in space (stopping that much mass during assembly could be very difficult). A more costly, but still better, alternative would be taking asteroids and hollowing them out for ships. Getting 6 feet of plating on a ship meant for more than a dozen people would be incredibly arduous in any other scenario.

Re:Magnetic Field Based Shielding (1)

a_hanso (1891616) | about 2 years ago | (#42451425)

You can also use the propellant as shielding -- by placing the tanks around the habitable area. That'll at least provide some extra protection on the outbound journey when the tanks are mostly full.

Not that big a problem. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451325)

a 6' shield of concrete? Why not hollow out asteroids that are near our orbit, and adjust their orbit to transit between earth and mars?

Re:Not that big a problem. (4, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#42451433)

Wikipedia's entry lists asteroids among several other options:

Several strategies are being studied for ameliorating the effects of this radiation hazard for planned human interplanetary spaceflight:

  1. Spacecraft can be constructed out of hydrogen-rich plastics, rather than aluminum.[31] Unfortunately, "[S]ome 'galactic cosmic rays are so energetic that no reasonable amount of shielding can stop them,' cautions Frank Cucinotta, NASA's Chief Radiation Health Officer. 'All materials have this problem, including polyethylene.'"[32]
  2. Material shielding has been considered:
    • Liquid hydrogen, which would be brought along as fuel in any case, tends to give relatively good shielding, while producing relatively low levels of secondary radiation. Therefore, the fuel could be placed so as to act as a form of shielding around the crew. However, as fuel is consumed by the craft, the crew's shielding decreases.
    • Water, which is necessary to sustain life, could also contribute to shielding. But it too is consumed during the journey unless waste products are utilized.[32]
    • Asteroids could serve to provide shielding.[33][34]

    Magnetic deflection of charged radiation particles and/or electrostatic repulsion is a hypothetical alternative to pure conventional mass shielding under investigation. In theory, power requirements for the case of a 5 meter torus drop from an excessive 10 GW for a simple pure electrostatic shield (too discharged by space electrons) to a moderate 10 kW by using a hybrid design.[30] However, such complex active shielding is untried, with workability and practicalities more uncertain than material shielding.[30]

Re:Not that big a problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451817)

a 6' shield of concrete? Why not hollow out asteroids that are near our orbit, and adjust their orbit to transit between earth and mars?

sounds like someone read "dominion"

Re:Not that big a problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451885)

or launch from moon, AND use moon's resources to make concrete

Re:Not that big a problem. (2)

Plazmid (1132467) | about 2 years ago | (#42451943)

Because then you need to engineer a microgravity drilling machine(and test it!), get it to your asteroid, de-spin your asteroid, and wrap it in elastic bands so your drill has 'gravity'. And you have to do all that before you put living quarters in. You also have the problem of moving it.

Hollowing out an asteroid is fairly complicated operation, but it's doable, just not in the near term.

Instead of hollowing the asteroid out, you could just scoop dirt off of it to make 'space sandbags.' Of course, we don't know very much about surface environment of asteroids, as of yet, there has been only one 'successful' asteroid sample return mission and it only returned a couple micron sized grains due to a sampler malfunction. As we don't have any mining devices that have been proven to work in microgravity, it might be better to scoop dirt from the Moon instead.

Of course, it might make more sense to use magnetic or electrostatic shielding to deflect said particles, they are charged after all.

Why not just have them wear ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451349)

their tinfoil hate ???

      Just asking

TIN FOIL PROVEN EFFECTIVE !! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451377)

No lead, no cement, just foil !! Tin, not aluminium !! Then let the stars be your future !!

And yet.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451397)

There's likely a line of millions of people (myself included) who would happily line up to risk their own life for such a step forward in mankind.

Solutions for charged particles (3, Interesting)

PhxBlue (562201) | about 2 years ago | (#42451419)

Is a strong magnetic field not an effective solution for the solar wind? Heck, with large enough solar arrays, you could use the solar wind to power a magnetic field that would protect the crew cabin from the solar wind. There's something poetic in that. Alternately, if fusion ever gets off the ground as a power and thrust source, you could just use its magnetic field to protect the crew.

How many rays are there out there? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451449)

Do we have enough empirical evidence to quantify how many more cosmic rays one would be exposed to at some point X between here and mars, compared to being on board the ISS, or the earth or moon's surface?

If it's only 1% more than an ISS astronaut would experience, then it doesn't seem that risky. If it's a 10-fold increase, that's a different story.

A quick googling doesn't turn up anything. The TFA is in Forbes, and is full of "coulds".

It seems to me that the Forbes target audience is the same that hates space, and all the money wasted on NASA, which I'm sure they'd rather be given to the banking or insurance industries.

Re:How many rays are there out there? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42451749)

Well I'm not an astronomer, but I'm fairly sure that the ISS is close enough to the Earth to still be protected by the Earth's magnetic field. Hence it probably gets a little bit of protection there... as opposed to the empty space trip between here and Mars.

The Moon, I doubt there was much protection. But the trip was measured in days... and not the months/years it would take to go to Mars and back.

This is a theoretically solved problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451455)

It only takes about 7 T*m to get the equivalent level of shielding on a spacecraft as to what you have on earth. With modern HTS tape conductors this is not an insurmountable technical problem. In fact we will be testing a small prototype for just such a device where I work in a few weeks.

Magnetic Fields (4, Interesting)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#42451461)

If magnetic fields protect the earth, we can't the same be done to a space craft?

Re:Magnetic Fields (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#42451727)

Or some sort of ion drive. Configure it to repel the charged particles as well as push the spacecraft along.

Re:Magnetic Fields (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451753)

Dunno, how much current is needed to generate a magnetic field equivalent of Earths?

Re:Magnetic Fields (1)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#42451895)

Just has to be enough for the space craft. Do like they did in the movie "the Philadelphia experiment".

Re:Magnetic Fields (2)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 2 years ago | (#42451789)

Because the amount of energy required to provide suitable electro-magnetic shielding for the duration of the journey would be prohibitive.

Force Field (Magnetic) (1)

7bit (1031746) | about 2 years ago | (#42451469)

Highly charged Iron particles huh? Hmm, how about generating a rotating magnetic field around the ship? aka "Force Field".

You know a ship of that size will have a nuclear power source of one sort or another like many other of our space craft have and do, so it should be capable of powering a magnetic field generator. Should be old tech even.

Re:Force Field (Magnetic) (1)

Sez Zero (586611) | about 2 years ago | (#42451581)

Highly charged Iron particles huh? Hmm, how about generating a rotating magnetic field around the ship? aka "Force Field".

You mean something to shield you from the bombardment of particles? Could someone then announce to ground control when they break orbit for Mars, "Shields Up. Proceed."?

Re:Force Field (Magnetic) (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42451761)

Make it so

Re:Force Field (Magnetic) (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42451853)

It wouldn't even need to rotate. A simple stationary field would be able to turn those particles right around, or make them go in circles until the shielding gets them. I'm not sure how practical it is though. The calculations are beyond me, but these are very high energy, very high mass particles. That implies that it would take a very strong magnetic field to affect them significantly.

Re:Force Field (Magnetic) (1)

HJED (1304957) | about 2 years ago | (#42451865)

The only problem I could see with this is that wouldn't such a field also block radio transmissions?
That could quite a significant problem on long journeys, although with our current technology it seems the most likely method.

What about the trip to the moon? (-1, Flamebait)

houbou (1097327) | about 2 years ago | (#42451527)

If the logic behind the trip to Mars is that it could kill people, which makes sense without proper shielding, then what does that make of our so called Moon landings? Seems to me that more and more, these landing were scams all along.. I never could see how we had the technology to make people walk on the Moon in the 60s. Those astronaut suits? Really?

Re:What about the trip to the moon? (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#42451643)

Its all about exposure time. The longest Apollo mission lasted about two weeks. Mars missions will last many months, possibly a year or more.

Re:What about the trip to the moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451745)

The moon is still slightly protected by earths magnetic field. The field doesn't just suddenly end; inverse square law, and all that.

Not only that, extremely dilute atmospheric particles have been discovered on the far side of the moon - the moon is technically inside Earth's atmosphere.

Re:What about the trip to the moon? (1)

houbou (1097327) | about 2 years ago | (#42451949)

It's hard to believe that we had proper shielding back in the 60s and 70s when it comes to protecting ourselves from any meaningful exposure. Check out what these suits are made of.

Re:What about the trip to the moon? (3, Informative)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#42451739)

Trip to the moon, 3 days, trip to mars 3 months in the best possible scenario. If the moon landing was a scam, the USSR would have absolutely 100% for sure called us out on it.

Re:What about the trip to the moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451803)

I would guess that the difference is the exposure time. Mars and back is a trip that will take more than a year. The Moon and back is a few days.

Not really a problem (4, Funny)

Scutter (18425) | about 2 years ago | (#42451561)

I don't understand why they would have to wrap the whole ship in a 6-foot thick lead shield. That's incredibly inefficient. Just make 6-foot thick lead helmets instead. It's a lot cheaper and their brains will still be protected from the killer brain rays.

Or wrap the spacecraft in water (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 2 years ago | (#42451563)

which can be tapped for oxygen, provide shielding, provide water and so on. It's not as good as lead, but you need water anyway. You may as well multipurpose the stuff.

Damaged Brains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451607)

Assuming the astronauts are sufficiently supported with food, air, and water, so they can physically survive, and that they are shielded from radiation, I see no reason they WON'T survive. The only people to suffer brain damage will be the ones that don't get to make the trip, from banging their heads against the walls.

Had this conversation a million times... (4, Funny)

kid_wonder (21480) | about 2 years ago | (#42451621)

Me: "Here's a pen dad, sign the picture for them"
Dad: "Why do they want my signature?"
Me: "You were an astronaut when you were younger, you went to the moon"
Dad: "What?"
Me: "Yes, you went to the moon."
Dad: "We've been to the moon? That is amazing!!!"
Me: "Yes Dad, and *you* have been to the moon"
Dad: "*I've* been to the moon?!?"
Me: "Absolutely, see that picture you are signing? That is you"
Dad: "OK. Why am I signing this?"
Me: "Your were an astronaut when you were younger, you went to the moon" ...

Re:Had this conversation a million times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451863)

Your dad is Edgar Mitchell?

Re:Had this conversation a million times... (4, Informative)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#42451957)

One of the truly sad stories about Neil Armstrong post moon-walk: Up until 1994, he was carefully fulfilling all the autograph requests and would spend a couple of hours a day signing his own name. The reason he stopped was because people were requesting autographs (which were basically free + postage) and then selling the signed item for big bucks.

Excelente artigo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451625)

Excelente artigo, você deveria escrever mais sobre isto! Toxicologia [intertox.com.br]

I'll go... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451811)

My brain is already fairly damaged from smoking so much pot in high school, so a little more from cosmos radiation, wont matter..

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