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article imageAstronauts headed to Mars face psychological challenges

By Paris Franz     Feb 14, 2013 in Science
Astronauts on a mission to Mars will have to deal with sleep deprivation, lethargy and an inability to focus on tasks, according to the scientists behind the Mars500 experiment.
The Mars500 experiment was an international test run by the Russian Academy of Sciences, in conjunction with the European and Chinese space agencies. It placed a six-man crew in a simulated spacecraft for 520 days during 2010 and 2011, and attempted to mimic the conditions of a space flight as closely as possible, complete with a communications delay and no natural light.
Wired reports the aim of the experiment was to discover how the crew members fared in such isolated conditions. The results were published in January in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The crew members experienced a range of reactions, although all of them found their sleep cycle disrupted. Most found themselves sleeping more than usual, while one member of the crew slept for a shorter and shorter time. The resulting sleep deprivation caused his cognitive abilities to suffer.
“There were really large individual differences with how the crew responded to the isolation,” psychiatrist Matthias Basner of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine told Wired. “Four of them showed at least one issue that could have exploded or led to a severe adverse effect during a Mars mission.”
The idea of a manned mission to Mars has gained traction in recent years. The Daily Telegraph reported NASA plans a manned mission sometimes in the 2030s, while the not-for-profit company Mars One is planning a flight due to leave in 2023, as part of a project to set up a permanent settlement. A Huffington Post poll reveals seven percent of Americans would take the opportunity for a one-way mission to Mars.
More about Mars500, mars mission simulation, Sleep deprivation, Isolation
 
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