Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Health risks of Mars mission would exceed limits

04 April 2014, 07:23

Washington - Efforts to send humans to Mars would likely expose them to health risks beyond the limits of what Nasa currently allows, an independent panel of medical experts said on Wednesday.

Therefore, any long-term or deep space missions - which are still decades off - need a special level of ethical scrutiny, said the report by the Institute of Medicine.

"These types of missions will likely expose crews to levels of known risk that are beyond those allowed by current health standards, as well as to a range of risks that are poorly characterised, uncertain, and perhaps unforeseeable," said the IOM report.

Currently, astronauts are launched into low-Earth orbit, where they spend three to six months at a time aboard the International Space Station.

But journeys to Mars could take up to 18 months. Nasa has said it aims to send people to the Red Planet by the 2030s, and is working on building a heavy duty launcher and spacecraft for this purpose.

Health risks from short-term missions in space can include nausea, weakness, blurred vision, while long-term risks include radiation-induced cancer and the loss of bone mass.

Given the uncertain risks of exploring further into space than ever before, Nasa asked the IOM to develop an ethics framework to guide decisions in the future of human spaceflight.

"The committee finds relaxing [or liberalising] current health standards to allow for specific long duration and exploration missions to be ethically unacceptable," the report said.

Members also ruled out creating a separate set of safety standards for Mars missions.

Instead the group concluded that the only option was to grant an exception to existing health standards.

But the IOM cautioned, Nasa still needs to determine whether such a loophole would be ethically acceptable.

"Any exceptions should be rare and occur only in extenuating circumstances," the IOM said.

Key considerations should include avoiding harm and exercising caution, allowing astronauts to make their own decisions about whether to participate, choosing missions that provide benefits to society and seeking a favourable balance of the risk of harm and benefit.

Nasa should also ensure equal opportunity during crew selection, and provide lifetime health care and protection for astronauts.

"From its inception, space exploration has pushed the boundaries and risked the lives and health of astronauts," said chair of the committee Jeffrey Kahn, a professor of bioethics and public policy at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, Baltimore.

"Determining where those boundaries lie and when to push the limits is complex."


Tags nasa space

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...