The Washington Times-Herald

Community News Network

January 9, 2013

Mars mission could turn astronauts into couch potatoes

Imagine life on a spaceship headed to Mars. You and your five crewmates work, exercise, and eat together every day under the glow of fluorescent lights. As the months pass, the sun gets dimmer and communication with Earth gets slower. What does this do to your body? According to an Earth-based experiment in which six volunteers stayed in a windowless "spaceship" for nearly a year and a half, the monotony, tight living space, and lack of natural light will probably make you sleep more and work less. Space, for all intents and purposes, turns you into a couch potato.

A mission to Mars would take about 520 days-including the months it takes to travel there and back and the time spent on the Red Planet. But the longest any human has spent off Earth is 437 days straight, a record set in 1995 by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, who was orbiting relatively close to home in the space station Mir. Polyakov seemed to bear the burden of long space flight fairly well, but many questions remain about just what a long mission farther from the sun would do to astronauts' ability to sleep and keep energized.

For answers, scientists turned to the Mars500 mission simulation in Moscow, which ended in November 2011. Six crewmen-who are an international mix of astronaut trainers, engineers, and doctors between 27 and 38 years old-stayed in a series of tunnellike chambers and played out the 520-day mission to Mars. "It was thought to be a safe way to try to begin to understand those questions instead of just launching into an extremely long space flight," says study co-leader and sleep scientist David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania. The crew could communicate with the outside world, but with a time delay depending on how far the mission was supposed to be from Earth. Halfway through the mission, the volunteers even worked on a simulated martian landscape inside a large room with a sandy floor and a black ceiling dotted with fake stars. Throughout the experiment, video cameras and activity-monitoring wristwatches recorded the crew's movements, enabling scientists to observe how often the crew members slept and how much of their time awake was spent lazing about.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Inequality crisis shot with factual problems, hypocrisy

    President Obama, various media and political liberals say inequality, of all things, is the defining issue of our times. Yet this message is delivered by multimillionaires and a president who jets from tee time to stump speech on the taxpayer's dime.
     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

  • Has the iPad lost its swag?

    July 24, 2014

  • Facebook continues moneymaking trend

    Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    The NCAA once cracked down on colleges that went too far luring top prospects, then it targeted teams that lathered players with special treatment. That was until the NCAA's get-tough approach backfired, rendering it ineffective and creating an opportunity for those who want to play dirty.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police Brutality screen shot. Technology plays key part in battling police brutality (VIDEO)

    Allegations of police brutality are nothing new -- as long as there has been law enforcement, citizens have registered claims that some officers cross the line. But in the last few years, the claims of excessive force are being corroborated with new technology from cell phone cameras, police dash-cams and surveillance videos. 

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014