When you think about space travel, especially the future mission to Mars, the main problem you’re envisioning is probably transportation. Unless you’ve seen “The Martian”, which you probably have by now, in which case you’ll have a better understanding of the difficulties of living there. Despite its factual inaccuracies, “The Martian” did present a few real issues pertaining to real space travel, such as the long, secluded voyage and the difficulties regarding food when going to Mars.
The trip to Mars
Relatively soon, after more than 50 years of space flight, humans will be landing on Mars and will remain there for at least 20 months. But after all this time, there is still a major issue present that is concerning for the scientists assigned to figure it out – the astronauts’ food.
It may not sound that complicated, but even the astronauts on the ISS have huge restrictions when it comes to their food and the way it’s prepared. According to NASA experts, a balanced diet is vital in the course of a space mission.
Just like huge amounts of people died during the golden age of sailing of scurvy and other illnesses caused by vitamin deficiencies, astronauts face the same problems, plus many others like potential muscle and bone loss due to the zero G, immune function changes, radiation, as well as changes to other biological systems.
In order to prevent these, they need a very balanced and well thought out diet. For this, the National Academies of Medicine, Sciences, and Engineering reevaluated all the information NASA had up until this point about the health risks involved in space travel. This resulted in some pretty unfortunate conclusions.
First of all, NASA had apparently been exaggerating the advantages some nutrients offered, while at the same time downplaying the risks of some nutrient deficiencies. According to the review, this issue could be easily fixable with some dietary supplements, but this is where the second issue comes in.
Second of all, unfortunately, nutrients tend to deteriorate faster while in the form of pill supplements than when in food. They are also far weaker than those found in actual food. The only supplement taken currently by astronauts is Vitamin D because of their lack of contact with sunlight.
The best plan so far for the Mars mission is to have the astronauts grow their own once they get there. Despite “The Martian” being full of factual inaccuracies, it did present a good idea on how to support life on the red planet.
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