Scientists have long known high levels of radiation exists on Mars. But could it be so high that humans won’t be able to handle when we get there?
Going to Mars may be more dangerous than we thought. The major problem is high-energy space radiation. Scientists know that cosmic rays can damage DNA. They had just overlooked how bad it could get.
A team re-examined how damaged DNA can cause cancer. They then estimated levels of radiation exposure in space and on Mars. Their results are devastating.
The risk of cancer on Mars is twice as high as previously thought.
It comes down to how damaged DNA spreads throughout the body. A detailed study in mice reveals a sinister side to radiation. Damaged DNA doesn’t just keep to itself.
It sends signals to nearby healthy cells, which triggers the healthy cells to mutate, which could cause more cancer.
Previous models hadn’t accounted for this domino effect. Even radiation shielding only moderately reduces the risk. Luckily on Earth, we’re protected from this danger.
Earth’s magnetic field traps most harmful space radiation. But in deep space, and on Mars, there is no such protection.
Right now, there’s limited studies of just how great this risk is. The scientists stress more research is needed before a crewed mission to Mars.
The big question now is: if the risk is too great, will we still try?