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Posted September 14, 2013: by Bill Sardi
The one-way trip has been scheduled. The lift-off from Earth is scheduled for a date in 2022 with arrival on the planet Mars seven months later in 2023. Over 200,000 venturesome planet colonists have already applied for the 40 who will be selected and trained as the first interplanetary travelers. The precarious 210-Earth day trip will cost an anticipated $6 billion to prepare for, totally privately funded, which includes landing of pre-habitation supply pods and rovers that will set down a selected colonization site on the surface of Mars beginning in 2016.
Mars One, the name of the inter-planetary sponsor, anticipates some fatalities as a colony is established on mars that will live out the rest of their lives on the red planet, though these deaths are not expected to be from the obvious cosmic radiation threat.
How will these space travelers spend most of their time during the 210-day space flight? Answer: largely monitoring their health, taking antioxidant vitamin supplements, attending to monitors that detect solar flares which increase radiation exposure, and otherwise exercising and taking vitamins to prevent muscle and bone loss, would comprise a work day.
The astronauts will undergo 7 years of training. Practice landings on Mars will be conducted before an actual human landing. Then these planetary colonists will dig in and sustain themselves for the remainder of their lives on a barren red desert landscape with a thin carbon dioxide atmosphere. The trip will be excruciating in cramped quarters with no showers and limited food and water.
Scientists say such a trip is precarious even with the best known precautions. Radiation hazards in outer space are an enormous challenge. Gamma radiation knocks electrons from atoms and creates reactive forms of oxygen and nitrogen that can damage human tissues
A primary health concern is exposure to radiation with other concerns over bone and muscle loss as well as diminished immunity. The two cosmic sources of radiation that could impact a mission outside the Earth’s magnetic field are solar flare particle events and galactic cosmic rays.
While space biologists say the probability of severe radiation damage due to solar flares is very low, the crew must utilize safeguards as the radiation hazard is cumulative over time.
In the event of radiation emitted by solar flares, even increased shielding will not be adequate and the crew will have to retreat into a special radiation shelter in a hollow water tank.
NASA low-Earth-orbit radiation exposure limits were designed to keep the risk of radiation-induced fatal cancer below 3 percent, according to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements report 132. One report says the radiation hazard posed by long-term space travel should not hold back such missions. The increased risk attributed to space travel is, on average, smaller than added risk from smoking, say experts.
As of 2013, the longest time spent in outer space by an astronaut is 803 days (2.2 years over six space flights).
Mars One estimates a 210-day trip to Mars will result in ~386 milli-Sieverts of radiation received by settlers on the red planet. (A Sievert is a unit for the amount of ionizing radiation required to produce the same biological effect as one rad of high-penetration x-rays.)
The career upper limit for radiation exposure established by European, Russian, Canadian and NASA authorities is between 600-1200 milli-Sieverts. Mars One says space travelers can expect a solar flare to force them into a special water shielded chamber at least once every two months. Three hours a day spent outside their habitat would expose Mars colonists to about 11 milli-Sieverts/day.
Antioxidants seleno-methionine and melatonin are cited as protective agents against galactic radiation though many others could be added to the list such as glutathione, the glutathione precursor NAC (N-acetyl cysteine), garlic and allicin from garlic, as well as tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) and rice bran IP6 (a mineral binder).
One authoritative reports says physical exercise shows little success in preventing bone loss from long-duration spaceflight. The first crews of the International Space Station used an exercise device that provided “little protection” from bone loss. However, supplemental vitamin D may help maintain bone among space crews during 4-6 months of microgravity.
Weightlessness during space flight missions results in calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K deficiency, increased urinary calcium excretion, decreases intestinal calcium absorption.
Despite modest vitamin D supplement use during space flight, blood serum vitamin D levels decline. While nutritional supplementation during space flight may be critically helpful in staving off loss of bone and muscle mass during space flight, this must be accompanied by exercise regimens to be fully effective.
The red wine molecule resveratrol is a candidate molecule to counter bone loss during prolonged space flight. In laboratory animals, tail suspension was used to simulate inactivity during space flight and animals given resveratrol exhibited reduced bone loss.
Surveys show about 29% of astronauts on short-duration missions experience a degradation of their vision and 60% of astronauts on long-duration missions, many which did not self-correct after return to Earth. A prevalent problem is a flattening of the globe itself due to less gravity. 21849212
Another survey indicates approximately 20% of astronauts on International Space Station missions have developed measurable vision and eye health changes after flight. A shortage of B vitamins, in particular vitamin B9 (folic acid) has been cited as the primary cause.
Prolonged space flight may produce swelling of the optic nerve, flattening of the globe itself and abnormal folds in the blood supply layer (choroid) of the eye.
Space flight anemia is a widely known phenomenon among astronauts.
Early in space flight the human body begins to store away iron, as if to protect from iron-induce radiation. This is evidenced by a rise in ferritin levels, the iron-storage protein. In turn, elevated iron storage level may result in a decline in bone mineral density.
The lack of gravity during space flights appears to result in loss of fluid volume in the blood circulation and a significant decline in magnesium.
With space flight there are significant reductions of blood serum magnesium. However, blood serum magnesium is not a reliable measure as high levels may reflect recent mineral consumption or excretion of magnesium. However, magnesium is so critical to the human body for DNA stabilization, function of mitochondria to produce cellular energy, and for repair of the end caps (telomeres) on chromosomes, that the importance of magnesium supplementation during space flights has drawn considerable attention by space biologists.
Laboratory mice exposed to radiation similar to what human astronauts receive during space flights develop cognitive (thinking) deficits. Laboratory mice exposed to radiation developed memory problems, whereas mice given lipoic acid (a sulfur compound), an antioxidant, significantly reduced these memory deficits. In an animal model of cosmic radiation exposure, lipoic acid protected against memory loss.
Exposure to space radiation may compromise the capacity of astronaut antioxidant defense systems which can partially be corrected by dietary supplementation, particularly selenium as seleno-methionine. Supplemental selenium has been demonstrated to abolish undesirable changes in gene protein making (gene expression) induced by space radiation. Vitamin E (as tocopherol succinate) and coenzyme Q10 have also been shown to help to counter radiation-induce decline in antioxidant defenses.
Antioxidant-rich nutrients would be employed to counter these DNA-damaging effects. An array of antioxidant nutrients to supplement the diet would be anticipated and is likely to include vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium, glutathione and sulfur compounds that produce glutathione and other endogenous (internal) antioxidants such as catalase, super oxide dismutase and heme oxygenase. Amino acids such as arginine, taurine and citrulline are also mentioned.
Supplemental vitamin, mineral and amino acids must be stable during storage throughout a prolonged space flight.
B vitamins, which are vulnerable to degradation due to exposure to light, heat and oxygen, appear to be stable after 4 months of space flight. Other studies show multivitamins and vitamin D appear to be stable throughout the duration of long-term space flights.
Space travelers would likely be supplied with nucleotides, the ladder rungs on twisted DNA comprised of adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. Supplemental nucleotides would facilitate rapid tissue repair and accelerate the immune response.
A list of other candidate nutrients for space travel would include:
©2013 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.
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