Progressive loss of bone calcium, motion sickness, possibility of personality clashes and other psychological problems are among challenges that must be solved before flights to Mars can take place, a University of Utah physician says.
Dr. Royce Moser Jr., a professor of family and preventive medicine and director of the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, was among speakers Friday at the "Visit to Mars" workshop at the U.The workshop will continue Monday through Friday this week in Room 104, Engineering and Mines Classroom Building.
Sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Space Grant Consortium, the workshop has attracted undergraduate, graduate and high school students and is geared to piquing their interest and that of others for careers in space.
The workshop is timely because the United States and the Soviet Union have announced intentions of manned missions to the red planet.
Moser said travel to Mars and back would take two or more years, and physicians and others in the aerospace science want to enhance performance and improve the safety of all individuals exposed to the environmental and physiological stresses of flight.
"Patients" of the aeromedical practitioner include air and space crews, passengers, air traffic controllers and all support personnel, including maintenance workers who support atmospheric or space flight.
Moser said studies of prolonged undersea voyages and of people wintering in the Antarctic give some indication of the stress that would be encountered on long space flights. However, he said such studies cannot duplicate all the areas of concern and further investigation is essential.
"It's impossible to simulate conditions that crews will experience in trips to Mars," Moser said in an interview.
He said the emphasis in aerospace medicine is on prevention of physical and psychological problems.
He said aerospace medical specialists' concerns include changes in barometric pressure, which can cause decompression sickness, with possibly fatal results; reduced concentrations of oxygen at higher altitudes, which can starve tissues of oxygen and result in loss of consciousness and death); radiation exposure at high altitudes; temperature extremes; the effects of high acceleration forces experienced in high-performance aircraft; and the effects of weightlessness in orbital and space flight.
"Of particular concern in space flight is space adaptation syndrome or space motion sickness, which Senator Jake Garn helped study in flight on the Discovery shuttle," Moser said.
Moser said he and others in aerospace medicine are also concerned with progressive loss of calcium from bones and loss of muscle strength, as well as muscle wasting during long-duration flights." Such problems develop because the muscles are not being used in an environment exposed to gravity, Moser explained.
The physician said he is particularly interested in aggravation and personality problems that may develop on long-term flights.