Sending Astronauts to Mars

Topics: NASA, Mars, Space exploration Pages: 3 (981 words) Published: December 3, 2012
Sending Astronauts to Mars as soon as technically possible has many disadvantages, NSBE Space: Special Interest Group believes that NASA should wait to send astronauts to Mars. There are many obvious reasons why we shouldn’t send astronauts to Mars. Right now there are not many traces of life on Mars. There is not a large chance to discover places and things of immediate value when on Mars. It is estimated that sending a person to Mars would cost over 150 billion dollars. With that kind of money, 800 new Hoover Dams could be built. A Mars mission could be the single most expensive event in U.S. history (besides wars). The only way to get the money for the equipment would be by cutting health-care benefits, education spending, program spending or raising taxes (Easterbrook).

Another big problem is radiation on Mars. NASA weighs radiation danger in units of cancer risk. A healthy 40-year-old non-smoking American male stands about 20 percent chance of eventually dying from cancer. But that percentage is if he stays on Earth. If that same man travels to Mars, then the risk goes up. Having that man go to Mars would increase this risk of cancer by 19 percent. This would increase his chances to a 39 percent chance of having cancer. The biggest threat to astronauts is galactic cosmic rays (GCR). GCR are particles accelerated to almost light speed by distant supernova explosions. GCRs can barrel through the skin of the spaceship and people while breaking the strands of DNA molecules, damaging genes and killing cells in the process. Apollo astronauts were exposed to these rays for a few days on their trip to the moon. The GCR may have damaged their eyes. The Apollo crew reported seeing cosmic ray flashes in their retinas. Many years later, some of those astronauts developed cataracts. Since the estimated travel time for the Mars astronaut would be more than a year, which would be an extended time for radiation damage (NASA).

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