What Happens to Your Brain on Mars?
There's a lot to contend with if you want to get to Mars...
Just ask Mark Watney (the fictional hero in the movie The Martian).
But getting left behind on Mars is just one issue. There are many -- many -- more. And not just technical ones. Psychological and physiological issues will abound. In other words, we will need to learn what happens to your brain on Mars and how to deal with things like:
- isolation and confinement, and
- Radiation exposure
Isolation and Confinement
If you have watched the move The Martian, you see how fictional astronaut Mark Watney deals with this issue. But actual experiments have already been done here on Earth. One of the most well-known experiments to simulate a trip the the Red Plant is Mars500, a 17-month long isolation experiment undertaken by six scientists in a pressurized facility in Russia that ended in 2011. The purpose was to test how well the scientists would cope with extended isolation and confinement and only themselves as company.
The results: Chronic stress and substantially decreased brain activity.
The physiological issues will be just as difficult as the psychological. For example, we've learned over the years that an astronaut's eyesight steadily degrades over time as a result of radiation exposure. One of the strange quirks of being an astronaut is seeing flashes of light, even with your eyes tightly shut -- just one of the things that might also affect your brain on Mars.
This phenomena has been well-documented and is due to cosmic rays zipping through the astronaut's eyeballs -- messing with their optic nerve and making them think they are seeing bright, luminous spots where none exist. NASA astronaut Don Pettit experienced this first hand and wrote:
In the dark confines of my sleep station, with the droopy eyelids of pending sleep, I see the flashing fairies. As I drift off, I wonder how many can dance on the head of an orbital pin.
Watch this video from PhysicsGirl released by BrainCraft. She goes into more depth and gives a really well done explanation on these issues.
What do you think? Would you still go?
Let us know. Share your thoughts in the comments below.