How Space Station and Moon Missions Will Prep Astronauts for Mars

Space.com | 5/20/2019 | Elizabeth Howell
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NASA's push to land humans on the moon in 2024, along with the agency's ongoing research on the International Space Station (ISS), could serve as excellent analog environments for a mission to Mars, several researchers said at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington on Thursday (May 16).

A group of researchers from space agencies, private spaceflight companies and other organizations around the world discussed how to best prepare for a mission to Mars. Such a venture involves several additional risks compared to an excursion to the moon. Among those risks, humans on Mars will have to spend long periods of time on the planet's surface in an environment that could contain Martian microbes.

Research - ISS - NASA - Plans - Risks

Already, research on the ISS has helped NASA make plans to mitigate some of the risks of sending humans to Mars, said Julie Robinson, who is chief scientist of the orbiting complex at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. For example, researchers have spent the better part of 20 years investigating the effects of microgravity on the human body; these include weakened muscles and bones, fluid shifts, and cardiovascular deconditioning.

There is less risk of some of those health issues today, however, due to research on the ISS, Robinson said. We know more about how microgravity affects the human body now than we did before the ISS launched more than 20 years ago. But Mars remains tough. "As we look at the risks for all the design reference missions that could be done ... the most significant would be a human mission to Mars," she said.

Robinson - NASA - Plan - Humans - Moon

Robinson added that NASA's plan to land humans on the moon would provide useful data for ISS missions, which take place fully in microgravity. Watching people adapt to gravity in the lunar environment, where they weigh one-sixth as much as they do...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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