Immortality Through Space Travel
Some futurists and
entrepreneurial industrialists tout a mission to Mars as the first step to the preserving
the human race. Elon Musk effectively referred to Mars colonization as a "backup drive"
for civilization ("Elon Musk: We Need to Leave Earth as Soon as Possible,"
Business Insider, Oct. 10, 2015).
What challenges are posed by a journey to Mars of around nine months each way?
been learned about the barriers to long space voyages from astronauts spending extended
time in earth orbit. Here are a few of the challenges as detailed by NASA:
- Vision problems, possible blindness. Many male International Space Station (ISS)
astronauts suffer severe eyesight problems beginning during spaceflight. NASA calls
countering eyesight problems among male astronauts (some permanent in nature) its
"top priority" in space medicine for long-term spaceflight, including a manned mission
to Mars. Issues include the flattening of the back of the eyeball, folds in the vascular
tissue behind the retina, and excess fluid around and presumed swelling ofthe optic nerve.
- Immune system issues. During prolonged space flight, astronauts develop seriously
weakened immune systems. T-cells, a critical component of white blood cells, do not
reproduce properly in space. Further, research found that microbes adapt to the
space environment and can become more virulent and resistant to antibiotics than on earth.
- Cosmic Radiation Risk. Radiation risk as its top concern for interplanetary travel.
Unless a spacecraft is adequately shielded, astronauts on interplanetary voyages can suffer
DNA damage, potentially aggressive cancer and radiation-induced cataracts (including severely
impaired vision) from exposure to cosmic radiation.
An episode of extreme solar weather (such as a coronal mass ejection) could prove fatal to
astronauts traveling outside the earth's magnetic field (which protects the planet's surface
from deadly cosmic radiation), even if the spacecraft were shielded. Severe neurological health
risks also are thought to exist from cosmic radiation exposure, including brain damage.
- Bone density and muscle loss issues. Serious bone loss associated with time in space,
called spaceflight osteopenia, begins after an astronaut has been in space for three to
four months, according to NASA. Some astronauts take up to four years to recover from bone
loss after their return to earth. Confirmed muscle loss takes place among ISS astronauts,
which could be of serious concern to astronauts completing a long round trip to Mars.
- Mental health issues. Being confined in small space for months at a time can lead to
serious interpersonal conflict and even mental health issues. Immediate connections to friends
and family living on earth would become impossible as a spacecraft moved further away,
producing a real source of stress. Cosmic radiation can produce minor visual and odor hallucinations.
- Cardiac issues. A microgravity environment contributes to atrial fibrillation and other
heart rhythm disturbance in ISS astronauts.
- Decompression illness and barotrauma. Astronauts working outside the ISS in spacesuits
generally work in an atmosphere of 100 percent oxygen at less than a third of normal sea
level air pressure. This allows for a higher and easier range of motion. Decompression
illness can occur if considerable care is not taken as astronauts reenter the more earth-like
pressurization in the International Space Station.
- X-rays not permitted. Radiation-based diagnostic CT scans and X-rays are not permitted
on the ISS. Ultrasound techniques presently substitute, but images must be transmitted back
to earth for medical interpretation and recommendations. During a long space flight,
transmission delays could be problematic, even fatal.
Does all of this amount to some kind of divine prohibition for interplanetary human travel?
Humanity has overcome many challenges in the past regarding aviation, deep-sea diving and
other seemingly unsurmountable barriers.
C.S. Lewis once stated: "Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread
its iniquity elsewhere." With the present considerable barrier to human space travel, one can
wonder whether God has already taken care of that in the short term.
But remarkably, God has much more in store for humanity. He intends for us to ultimately
inherit the entire universe! Be sure to read our free study guide Why Were You Born? to learn more .