Sending a manned mission to Mars requires more than a powerful launch rocket. Prep work also includes research about how a three-year space flight could affect the human body. With funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine are using human stem cells to measure the effects of deep space radiation.
The research team has demonstrated for the first time that the radiation encountered in deep space travel may increase the risk of leukemia in humans. They have used mice transplanted with human stem cells. After a lot of testing and analysis, researchers have suggested a common dietary supplement to protect astronauts from the damaging effects.
Radiation exposure is believed to be one of the most dangerous aspects of traveling to Mars, according to NASA. The average distance to the red planet is 140 million miles, and a roundtrip could take three years.
Taken together, the results indicate that the combined exposure to microgravity and SEP/GCR radiation can prove to be very harmful. The radiation caused during extended deep space missions, such as to Mars, could potentially increase the risk of immune-dysfunction and cancer.