What physical challenges would people face during a long-term, deep-space mission to Mars?

  • Scientists and engineers estimate it will take about eight months for a Mars mission to travel to the Red Planet. What impact will eight months in microgravity have on astronauts and explorers?

    Existing research on personnel deployed to the International Space Station suggests that time spent in microgravity causes significant changes to human physiology. So, scientists planning Mars missions are faced with big challenges: how to protect the human body during the months-long journey to Mars and ensure astronauts are in good physical condition upon arrival.

    These challenges must be met before humans can undertake a journey to explore Mars.

    1. What are some planetary similarities between Mars and Earth?

      Mars and Earth both rotate once every 24 hours, both have seasons, and both have polar icecaps.

    2. What is the warmest it gets on Mars?

      Approximately  0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit)

    3. About how cold does it get on Mars?

      Approximately  -100° Celsius (-212° Fahrenheit)

    4. What are some planetary differences between Mars and Earth?

      Differences between Mars and Earth include the fact that humans cannot breathe the air on Mars, and Mars is colder and drier than Earth.

    5. What are some of the impacts of microgravity on the human body?

      Microgravity means the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood to the body's extremities, bones demineralize, and the brain struggles to control balance and motion.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    astronaut Noun

    person who takes part in space flights.

    engineer Noun

    person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).

    estimate Verb

    to guess based on knowledge of the situation or object.

    gravity Noun

    physical force by which objects attract, or pull toward, each other.

    International Space Station (ISS) Noun

    satellite in low-Earth orbit that houses several astronauts for months at a time.

    Mars Noun

    fourth planet from the sun, between Earth and Jupiter.

    personnel Noun

    employees or all people working toward a common goal.

    physical Adjective

    having to do with the body.

    physiology Noun

    study of activity in living organisms, including physical and chemical processes.

    planet Noun

    large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.

    Encyclopedic Entry: planet
    research Noun

    scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.

    scientist Noun

    person who studies a specific type of knowledge using the scientific method.

    significant Adjective

    important or impressive.