Mars Mission In Jeopardy As Astronauts Can't Stand On Arrival

Posted: Sep 30 2015, 10:46pm CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Mars Mission in Jeopardy as Astronauts Can't Stand on Arrival
Expedition 43 Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from European Space Agency (ESA) is helped out of the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft just minutes after she landed in a remote area in Kazakhstan on Thursday, June 11, 2015. Credit: NASA

NASA has to solve a big problem before a manned Mars mission can go underway. Astronauts arrive unfit at the red planet to land and stand.

We all know the images of astronauts landing on earth after they have been in at the ISS for an extended time. They can't walk. They sit and need support by helpers. The longer an astronaut spends in space, the more difficult it is for their brain to readapt to gravity. Astronauts returning to Earth show balance control problems, muscle weakness and cardiovascular deconditioning.

The same problems would occur when astronauts travel to Mars one day. The journey is supposed to take about 6 months. When they arrive astronauts can't stand, have poor hand-eye-coordination, motion sickness and more. This means either the astronauts crash land their spacecraft or can't get out of it and explore Mars.

NASA researchers are working right now to solve this problem so astronauts can land and then stand.

NASA scientist Jacob Bloomberg evaluated test subjects who have undergone body unloading, or not carrying one's own weight, after returning from space shuttle missions, space station expeditions or from bed rest studies of up to 70 days.

To test just how much body unloading affects balance and stability, Bloomberg and his team developed the Functional Task Test (FTT), which identifies mission critical tasks that may impact astronauts' movement and performance immediately after g-transitions. The FTT consists of seven functional and physiological tests.

"These tests are very operation-oriented and are related to different aspects of the mission and activities an astronaut would need to do after landing on the surface of Mars," Bloomberg said.

With balance control impairment comes hand-eye coordination problems, loss of postural stability or steadiness, and vision and perception issues. Motion sickness is often a problem as well. After landing, these impairments can make it difficult for crew members to begin necessary operations, such as walking from their landing craft to their habitat.

There are not just many technical challenges to be solved to fly to Mars. There are also many human challenges. NASA put out a motivational video to convey that they will overcome this challenge.


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