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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Feb > Feb 22

In Space No-One Can Hear You Scream

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 11:58:06 -0500
Fwd Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 11:58:06 -0500
Subject: In Space No-One Can Hear You Scream

Source: IOL.Com - Cape Town, South Africa


February 21 2007

'In Space No-One Can Hear You Scream'

Paris - What's the biggest hurdle to setting up a colony on the
Moon or getting mankind to Mars and beyond?

Aliens? Asteroids? Money? Try: humans themselves.

Experts poring over plans to return to the Moon by 2018 and
later stride to Mars believe the greatest-ever gamble in the
history of space may ultimately depend on keeping the mind and
body sound.

Anxiety, loneliness and tensions with crew mates, a daily battle
to maintain fitness and avoid accidents, DNA-shredding radiation
from solar flares or cosmic rays - all these make mental and
physical health the key to whether a long-term mission will
succeed or fail catastrophically.

Benny Elmann-Larsen, coordinator of physiology in human space
flight at the European Space Agency (ESA), says psychological
stress could be the biggest problem of all.

"The human factor is the most uncertain factor," Elmann-Larsen
said in an interview with AFP.

A trip to the Moon, as with the Apollo missions, would last only
a few days, which is sufficiently short to be bearable.

But life in a lunar colony - presumably several interconnected
container-sized structures - would present months of
confinement, boredom and monotony.

Fortunately, a wealth of research conducted aboard nuclear
submarines, in outposts in Antarctica and on long-duration
missions on the Soviet space station Mir and the International
Space Station (ISS) has thrown up a number of of solutions, says

One of them is to use psychologists in mission control, helping
to ease conflicts between crews on the ground and those in
space, and helping to devise countermeasures to cope with
onboard stress, says Nick Kanas, a professor of psychiatry at
the University of California at San Francisco.

For example, crew members are encouraged to have frequent
contacts with family and friends on Earth, using audiovisual
links or email, and resupply missions bring up treats and gifts.

But going to Mars is a quite different proposition, says Kanas.

Unless there is a breakthrough in our primitive technology of
chemical rockets, it would take about six months to get there,
assuming that the Red Planet and Earth happen to be relatively
close in their differing tracks around the Sun.

Factor in, say, a year or more for doing some exploration and
research - which after all, is the whole point - and then a
longer ride home because the planets' positions will have
changed, and you're talking about two and a half, maybe three

As Earth recedes, gradually becoming a tiny bluish speck in the
inky cosmos, the sense of isolation and cabin fever could become

Morale-boosting efforts and support measures that were possible
in low-Earth orbit or the Moon would be almost impossible.

There would be few supply flights, or quite possibly none at
all, and the distances are such that it would take a crew member
45 minutes to ask a question from the folks back home and 45
minutes to get the reply.

That throws the onus on the crew, likely to range between four
and seven, depending on how much money can be mustered.

More people means more volume and mass for life support systems
and accommodation, which means lifting more material from Earth,
and the cost rises hugely.

But how half-a-dozen people can get along 24-7 in a large tin
can without becoming neurotic, or worse, is a big unknown, says
Kevin Fong, co-director of the Centre for Aviation Space and
Extreme Environment Medicine (CASE Medicine) at University
College London.

"In space, no-one can hear you scream," the British weekly New
Scientist aptly headlined an article on space stress last year.

A 110-day experiment in isolation that was carried out in a mock
space station in Moscow in 1999 showed how things can badly go
wrong. One module housed four Russian men; the other, three
international test subjects, from Austria, Canada and Japan.

Reports within the space community say that during a New Year's
celebration two of the Russian men engaged in a 10-minute fist-
fight that left blood on the walls before they were restrained
by the other men.

The mission commander hauled the only female, Judith Lapierre, a
Canadian, out of sight of the experiment's cameras and twice
gave her a French kiss that she fought in vain to resist.

The Japanese participant was so traumatised by this episode that
he quit the experiment altogether. The Canadian and Austrian, a
male scientist, continued with the mission - but insisted on
having locks fitted to their module door.

Fong says many potential problems can be avoided in advance by
weeding out crew candidates with a family history of mental
illness and with the right profile for collective living, and by
a smart but rigorous training process.

But, as the case has shown of love-struck astronaut Lisa Nowak,
accused of attempted murder, screening and training may not
compensate for the unpredictability of human nature, good or

Fong says there is little consensus on many things when it comes
to long-term missions.

Expert opinion differs whether sexual relationships between crew
members could ease tensions or in fact create them.

There isn't even agreement on what makes good psychological
dynamics for a crew size: a small crew encourages unity but lack
of variety raises the boredom risk; a large crew gives diversity
but creates the risk of cliques and scapegoating.

"The whole thing is quite a big shrug [unknown] at the moment,"
says Fong.

Here are some of the health hazards facing any future team of
astronauts sent to Mars:

Psychological stress: Loneliness, depression, anxiety,
claustrophobia, boredom, personality conflicts within the crew.

Emergencies: Anything from motion sickness and impaired
coordination to toothache and appendicitis.

Radiation: High-speed particles in space can slice human DNA,
boosting the risk of cancer.

Muscular atrophy: Need for a strict exercise regime to overcome
loss of muscle tone due to zero gravity.

Bone demineralisation: Bones become more porous, thus weaker, in
long-duration space missions.

[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://uforeview.net/ for the lead]

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