Los Angeles: People around the globe are aware of NASA's preparations that are underway for a space exploration mission to Mars.
Data from various tests, experiments, discoveries, probes, etc., are being collected and taken into consideration by scientists so as to make the astronauts' safety their top priority during the mission.
However, a new study has given out an alert for scientists, warning them of the health hazards that astronauts being sent for future extended deep space missions are at risk of.
The study says that astronauts travelling to Mars on future extended missions may face chronic dementia risk from exposure to galactic cosmic rays.
Charles Limoli from University of California, Irvine in the US and colleagues found that exposure to highly energetic charged particles - much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that will bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights - causes significant long-term brain damage in test rodents, resulting in cognitive impairments and dementia.
The study follows an earlier research that showed somewhat shorter-term brain effects of galactic cosmic rays. The current findings, Limoli said, raise much greater alarm.
"This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two-to-three-year round trip to Mars," said Limoli.
"The space environment poses unique hazards to astronauts. Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel - such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making," he said.
"Many of these adverse consequences to cognition may continue and progress throughout life," Limoli said.
For the study, rodents were subjected to charged particle irradiation (fully ionised oxygen and titanium) at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at New Yorks Brookhaven National Laboratory and then sent to Limolis UCI lab.
The study appears in the journal Scientific Reports.
(With PTI inputs)