NASA’s Ambitious Goals for Space Exploration Raise Concerns Over Safety Protocols for Deaths in Space
NASA has set its sights on returning humans to the moon and ultimately sending people to Mars in the coming years. While these plans have garnered excitement and fascination, they have also raised valid concerns about how humans would survive long-distance space travel and what would happen if someone were to die during these missions.
In the history of human spaceflight, a total of 20 people have died, but it is important to note that none of them actually died in space itself. However, as NASA pushes the boundaries of space exploration, the lack of set protocols for handling death in space has become a pressing issue.
Researchers worldwide have proposed various ways to handle such a tragedy. There are several potential dangers that make space a potentially deadly environment. These include exposure to the vacuum of space without a pressurized suit, crashes during landing, medical issues caused by Mars’ low gravity, suit malfunctions leading to suffocation, and the high concentrations of salts in Martian soil that could potentially damage the human body.
Exposure to the vacuum of space would cause a person to lose consciousness within 15 seconds. Asphyxiation or decompression are the most likely causes of death in such circumstances. Moreover, a person’s body in space would enter a frozen, mummified state and could potentially travel through space for millions of years until encountering a planet or star.
In the event of a death on a short mission to the International Space Station (ISS) or the moon, the body could be brought back to Earth. However, during a round trip to Mars, the body would need to be preserved or frozen for the return journey. Unfortunately, cremation would not be possible on Mars due to energy constraints, and burial is not an option as it would risk contaminating the planet with Earth organisms.
The most likely outcome for deaths on Mars or the moon would be the preservation of the body on the spacecraft until it can be safely brought back to Earth. This approach raises ethical questions and highlights the need for careful planning and consideration in future missions.
Similar outcomes would occur if deaths were to happen en-route to Mars, especially if astronauts were not wearing spacesuits. Both the moon and Mars have very little or no atmosphere, providing minimal oxygen. Radiation is also a significant concern, as Mars experiences significantly higher levels of radiation compared to Earth, which can have harmful effects on the cardiovascular system.
As NASA continues to make strides in space exploration, all these factors must be carefully considered to ensure the safety and well-being of astronauts. Currently, NASA is focused on returning humans to the moon by 2025 under its Artemis program. The agency’s dedication to research and innovation will be crucial in developing comprehensive protocols that address the potential risks and challenges of human missions to Mars.