HOUSTON – Crews on a two-year mission to Mars will not only be separated from family, but also they will have to work in harmony with no opportunities to get away from their colleagues.

“They will face loneliness, boredom and fatigue, as well as interpersonal conflicts, difficulties and tensions,” said Dr. JoAnna Wood, a psychologist with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.

Wood, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, is leading an NSBRI project that utilizes people at winter-over Antarctic research stations. Her study will examine the roles of personality, culture and group influences on behavior, performance and health outcomes.

“These remote and isolated conditions are similar to the environment that will be faced on long-duration space missions, such as the International Space Station or a trip to another planet,” Wood said. “We hope to identify traits that maximize crew functioning and determine methods to offset individual and group problems.”

Space radiation exposure during exploration missions

HOUSTON – Radiation exposures in space may be hundreds of times greater than exposure experienced on Earth. National Space Biomedical Research Institute scientists are examining the risks to astronauts who may one day depart on interplanetary missions.

“Severe space radiation exposure can kill cells in the body and injure tissues or cause mutations,” said Dr. John Dicello, NSBRI radiation team leader. “Exposures could lead to cancer, central nervous system damage, cataracts and other diseases.”

The research team will evaluate non-toxic drugs as a means to reduce these risks and will seek to identify dietary supplements to reduce levels of oxidative stress and cancer risks.

“Other projects will improve our understanding of genetic changes and DNA damage due to radiation. These findings also will benefit persons undergoing radiation treatment and those exposed to radiation on the job,” said Dicello, a professor of oncology in medical physics at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.