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Mars Space Science

Astronauts Could Get Lazier As Mars Mission Progresses 145

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the pass-the-chips dept.
sciencehabit writes "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."
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Astronauts Could Get Lazier As Mars Mission Progresses

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  • Star Trek (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:05PM (#42512389)
    Explains why Riker stopped shaving second season.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Explains why Riker stopped shaving second season.

      Make it so, Number One.

      • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:32PM (#42512673) Homepage Journal

        Man.

        These astronauts work 3 days, every five years - taking a round-trip to... NOWHERE!

        And you say it's possible for them to get lazier? Wow. :-)

        Make it number two, number one!

    • by ko7 (1990064)

      I figured that he did that for Deanna.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:06PM (#42512401)

    I've already done this experiment over 30 times. Its called winter.

    • by aliquis (678370)

      Yeah, I too could had told them what. Being unemployed since long in Sweden.

      Most basement dwellers and/or gamers to.

      Imagine going to Mars just playing RTS games in the mean time =P

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I've already done this experiment over 30 times. Its called winter.

      Move to California. We're nuts out here. We run, bike, hike, walk dogs, everything in the pouring rain. We're so used to being out and about we can't control outselves.

      "Jane!!! Stop this crazy thing! Jane!!!"

      So the solutiion is to hang a bunch of wall paper in the space craft of golden hills, vinyards, redwood groves, beaches, granite infested mountain trails and a Jeep.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Really? Most Californians I know freak out if it rains. Really rains, not what passes for rain in most of California.

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday January 07, 2013 @09:59PM (#42513585) Homepage

        A south puget sounder would stab you in the face with a fair-trade knife for claiming a californian knows rain.

        • by Maow (620678)

          A south puget sounder would stab you in the face with a fair-trade knife for claiming a californian knows rain.

          Vancouverite here.

          I'd loan you my organic, fair-trade knife, but it's rusted completely away.

          F'ing rain.

        • A south puget sounder would stab you in the face with a fair-trade knife for claiming a californian knows rain.

          As an Okie who lives in the Puget Sound, I'd shoot a south puget sounder with my God given 2nd amendment guns for claiming he knows rain, but I'm back home for the holidays and currently hiding in the cellar because of a tornado.

          .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:06PM (#42512403)

    It turns you into a Spudnik.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:08PM (#42512409)

    are the best fit to colonize space for sure!

    • Look at photos of modern American soldiers and compare them to, say, photos of WW2 American soldiers. I choose soldiers because they are a trained group of people employed by the Federal Government. It could of course be any contiguous group of American people.

      Next work out how much it costs to get one kg of mass into orbit.

      All that prime American beef is going to stay right here on Earth and it'll be jockeys that colonise the solar system and turn into space puddings in the process.
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Hey! We invented Al Gore.

  • by erice (13380) on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:09PM (#42512419) Homepage

    A year and half in simulated mars mission where you know it is a simulation has to be worse. In a real Mars mission, the crew will be know their activities are important: for the excitement to be first on mars, for the knowledge that a serious screw up could them their lives. On a simulated mission, you're just guinea pigs. Staying motivated must very difficult.

    • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:32PM (#42512667)
      Well, that's the psychology aspect, but the biological angle might not be as kind.
      • by Immerman (2627577)

        And we know the solution to the biological problem - high-intensity natural spectrum artificial light to compensate for the loss of natural light. Or you know, if you want to be energy-efficient just don't cut off all the natural light. Any ship would after all be in full sunlight the entire time, a sunning lounge with mostly UV-blocking windows (don't want to eliminate it entirely, that stuff is important to human biology) would likely solve most of the problems. Mars is only 50% further away, so even a

        • by donaldm (919619)
          The problems encountered with spacefiight to even a close planet such as Mars are considerable. The first is solar radiation which is considerable and can lead to cell destruction with out the proper protection (sun screen won't cut it). The second is the length of time it takes to get to Mars from our planet. Thirdly you have to contend with weightlessness or micro gravity for the trip and then when you get to Mars you you only have one sixth gravity which is definitely not good for the human physiology ov
          • by Immerman (2627577)

            Minor correction - Mars surface gravity is ~1/3 of Earth's, it's the Moon that's ~1/6.

            Actually we have no clue what the effects of prolonged exposure to reduced gravity is - we've never tried it. It would probably still reduce muscle mass since you could get by exerting smaller forces, but that's not actually a significant health problem directly. We do know prolonged exposure to *microgravity* does bad things to your skeleton (well, we *think* it's the uG, could be the radiation exposure), but that's a r

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          the spaceship could funnel in real light.

          but these earthbound "missions" are done pretty much as "psychology experiment" experiments. call it pseudo science if you will, but they're done largely to just kill time.

          we got better data already... from actual space stations and actual research doing stations on isolated spots on earth. not to mention that people have been going on very risky very long voyages before.

        • by g4b (956118)

          You need natural light for vitamine D, but thats basicly it. So, no, its not just "light missing".

    • by plover (150551)

      On a real mission, the trip out is likely to be pretty much demotivational as well. "Here I am, stack of college degrees and qualifications longer than your arm, and what am I doing? Watering hydroponic plants. Oh, god, I'm so depressed."

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:59PM (#42512919)

        On a real mission, the trip out is likely to be pretty much demotivational as well. "Here I am, stack of college degrees and qualifications longer than your arm, and what am I doing? Watering hydroponic plants. Oh, god, I'm so depressed."

        Be happy Marvin is not on the mission.

      • by cffrost (885375)

        On a real mission, the trip out is likely to be pretty much demotivational as well. "Here I am, stack of college degrees and qualifications longer than your arm, and what am I doing? Watering hydroponic plants. Oh, god, I'm so depressed."

        Well, instead of sending a few smart, expensive people, we see how many TSA "agents" can be stuffed into the spaceship? Maybe some of them will even figure out how to survive. ;o)

    • +This. The crew on the REAL trip would be a lot more motivated than this "simulation" bunch.

      Plus the real crew would consist of men with balls of steel, ones who truly have the right stuff. Can you imagine Neil Armstrong or John Glenn lounging like a couch potato?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sadly enough, I think you're being serious.

        This experiment was precisely to test if trained astronauts, in peak physical and mental health, could maintain that over a long period of isolation and lack of earth-like conditions. Unsurprisingly, the answer was "No" for reasons that anyone (at least, anyone living up here in the north, where sun doesn't stay up for more than a couple of hours a day for several months each winter) could have predicted:

        Actigraphy revealed that crew sedentariness increased across the mission as evident in decreased waking movement (i.e., hypokinesis) and increased sleep and rest times. Light exposure decreased during the mission. The majority of crewmembers also experienced one or more disturbances of sleep quality, vigilance deficits, or altered sleep–wake periodicity and timing, suggesting inadequate circadian entrainment

        To suggest that "The fact that such environment seriously fsc

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Go read up sometime on current astronaut selection criteria.

        There's a lot less "balls of steel," than there is "plays well with others," and "pays great attention to detail even when tired, bored, or otherwise distracted."

    • by x1n933k (966581)

      On a simulated mission, you're just guinea pigs. Staying motivated must very difficult.

      I certainly agree to some extent. If you check out the links this goes beyond simple will-power and excitement. It is more biological. This isn't the first time this has been talked about either and even Sci-fi writers though about this issue for long trips in our era (Earth room in Danny Boyles 'Sunshine' comes to mind).

      Mood lighting in over-seas flights help with sleeping on modern aircraft too, regardless of the excitement of passengers arriving in a time-zone much different from the one they left in. Th

    • A year and half in simulated mars mission where you know it is a simulation has to be worse.

      Since you seem to have have no actual experience in significant simulators, you couldn't possibly understand how wrong you are. You're on the line in the simulator too, and you damn well know it. You honestly think the guys in the simulator aren't motivated to do the best job possible?
       

      In a real Mars mission, the crew will be know their activities are important: for the excitement to be first on mars, for the knowledge that a serious screw up could them their lives.

      You can't sustain that kind of excitement/attention for months at a time, it's mentally extremely exhausting. And, having been there done that, the knowledge that a serious screwup could cost you your life eventually fades into the background noise. Back when I was making SSBN patrols, we saw the same things they saw in the study... guys tended to sleep more, lag more, and get lazier and sloppier as the patrol wore on. It took real effort to counteract it. Unlike these guys, we had experience and a culture (pride in your crew and boat and in wearing the fish) that made counteracting it something of a priority - but it was still hard to be as on top of things on day sixty five of a patrol as you were on day one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by celtic_hackr (579828)

      Stupid studies. Why not look at history? A trip to Mars is about five months (150 days) with current technology, although, most of our trips these days are in the nine month category (260 days, less fuel). The American Colonists spent up to 3 months sailing across the Atlantic. A trip from England to it's colony China, back in the day was a very dangerous and lengthy journey, well over nine months in length. A circumnavigation of the planet took three years to do. US subs, regularly stay submerged for 9 mon

      • US subs, regularly stay submerged for 9 months at a time. No sunlight. When's the last time you've heard of a nuclear sub being lost because the crew got lazy?

          USS San Francisco [wikipedia.org] - 08 Jan 2005. OK, so they didn't lose the ship but they came awfully damn close. Why? In part, I believe, because they'd been gone a long time and were headed for a liberty port. And in the years I spent at sea, it was always the end of patrol when I got nervous... because things could tend to get sloppy and guys tended to get lazy towards the end of a run. And that went times ten when we went non-alert and started making turns for King's Bay and turnover.
         

        Stupid studies. Why not look at history?

        We aren't the same people we were a century or more ago - society has changed, people's expectations have changed, etc... etc...
         

        Idiots and their surveys. Whatever editor allowed this post needs to have his/her Geek and Nerd credentials yanked.

        The idiot here isn't the editor - it's looking back in your mirror.

        • by khallow (566160)

          We aren't the same people we were a century or more ago - society has changed, people's expectations have changed, etc... etc...

          In other words, we are the same people we were. Changing society or expectations doesn't change that.

          • The amount of doublethink it would take to reach that conclusion from what I said, not to mention external evidence plain to anyone with an IQ over room temperature is absolutely astounding.

            Is it a natural talent, or did you practice?

            • by khallow (566160)

              The amount of doublethink it would take to reach that conclusion from what I said

              I was merely pointing out that you were using irrelevant measures. Did we change biologically in the last century? No. Did we change mentally in the last century? No. We are the same people we were.

              And let's note why that's important. The earlier poster asked "Why not look at history?" Modest changes in society just don't qualify as a serious reason for why we can't use the lessons of history.

        • I disagree, while I was being rather grandiose on the submarine bit, my point was we routinely do long mission type activities. Rather than do an artificial study, there is a wealth of real world data to draw from and analyze. But apparently that leap of logic was too much for your amazing brain, and you took too literal an interpretation.

          Secondly, we are still the same people. Doing a considerable amount of historical searching, one thing is clear we have not changed much in 500 years. We've gotten more ad

          • I disagree, while I was being rather grandiose on the submarine bit, my point was we routinely do long mission type activities.

            You're quite welcome to disagree. What you're not welcome to do is make shit up out of thin air like you are - because we don't "routinely" conduct long duration activities of this sort. Even the longest and most isolated (something like an Antarctic winter over) are shorter and much more in contact than a Mars bound craft.

            Rather than do an artificial study, there is a wea

      • Are you familiar with the...somewhat gruesome... assortment of disciplinary tools used to keep sailors on task during ye olden days of wooden ships and iron men(tm)?

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Also for a real crew the excitement will wear off soon, after which boredom starts taking over. On the trip there is probably nothing to do on the ship, as the ship will fly itself (computer controlled with navigational commands sent from Earth). And when people have nothing to do they will stop paying attention, get lazy, sleep more, etc. The lack of sunlight is probably just a minor issue as that can be solved by having brighter artificial lighting.

    • A year and half in simulated mars mission where you know it is a simulation has to be worse. In a real Mars mission, the crew will be know their activities are important: for the excitement to be first on mars, for the knowledge that a serious screw up could them their lives. On a simulated mission, you're just guinea pigs. Staying motivated must very difficult.

      Yeah, let's not give those NASA slobs the benefit of doubt. Clueless as they are, they surely haven't found a way to motivate the simulation crew. T

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:10PM (#42512435)

    This is why the Heart Of Gold is shaped like a running shoe - does all the running FOR you. Outsource everything...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Full spectrum lights are already used for treating depression.

    The lack of windows will not be valid - they will be used for observation of external activity (minor repairs, antenna alignments, ...

    The big problem with long flights is eyesight - lack of long distance focus causes the eyeball to change shape gradually (known on submarines). Result is near sightedness.

    • by PPH (736903)

      The big problem with long flights is eyesight - lack of long distance focus causes the eyeball to change shape gradually

      Fix that with special glasses.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Or changing images of naked people out on external booms.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Too much trouble to have to keep cleaning off the portholes.
    • That's not so bad, Mars is a smaller planet, everything will be closer anyway!

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Exactly. What sort of half-assed research project is this? Didn't they even bother to skim existing literature for known problems with things they're depriving their subjects of?

  • by Jetra (2622687) on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:14PM (#42512491)
    I call mulligan and demand they do a real field test over a simulation.
  • by RoverDaddy (869116) on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:16PM (#42512511) Homepage
    The Russians knew how to fix this back in 1997: http://www.theonion.com/articles/mir-scientists-study-effects-of-weightlessness-on,1211/ [theonion.com]
  • Are these the astronauts with Alzheimer's? From the other day?
  • Give them meaningful works that could only be done on space. Else boredom kills.
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Give them meaningful works that could only be done on space.

      For example, give them a big challenge, like trying to shut down a wayward computer that talks like a sedate Mitt Romney that locks them outside without space helmets.

  • TLDR (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tanman (90298) on Monday January 07, 2013 @08:35PM (#42512713)

    Too Lazy Didn't Read

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Americans are clearly the most experienced, well-trained, and qualified.

    Couch Potato.. check.

  • So, being confined to a small place with no need for physical fitness results in less physical activity? That's quite shocking.
  • Just install more lights.

  • Imagine life on a spaceship... 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...

    Did anyone else picture the crew from the original Matrix movie?

  • People keep researching Mars missions, being two years in space, like this would be a singular even in human history because of the isolation. The fact is, humans have been doing long duration missions for quite some time. Old Nantucket whalers could be at sea for a year or two. US Navy personel on deployed aircraft carriers and submarines are at sea isolated for six months at a time, sometimes more. Old explorers on Cook's ships, Magellan's ships, were at sea for years. This has been done. We know how to do this. You have a tight captain, brutal discipline, keep people busy, and the mission continues. If there is a problem, it may only be that the crew of a presently manned Mars mission might be too small for that, but maybe we need to rethink what that crew would be?

    Similarly, for all the talk of why mars, or why colonize space, no one has ever, even the left trying to be diabolical, or the right being religious nutty, ever mentioned the concept of the right to form religious colonies. Like, the pilgrims came to America to form their own fruitcake colony so they could live exactly as they wanted to under god. This gulf between science and religion, at least in the case of colonizing space, need not be so vast. Let's have a government that invests and encourages investment in space, so that, if people do want to have a tax free haven on the moon, or on mars, they can. If they want to have a pledge allegiance to the flag of mars and they think mars was made 6000 years ago, let them. Or, if people want to have a libertine sex colony on the moon, let them. The whole point of expanding into space isn't about commerce, its about, breaking away from a crowded earth that demands rules so we can all get along, in exchange for the promise of a loosely populated place where you can live, like the way you want to.

    • by Mantrid42 (972953)
      Yes, brothers! Our faith will carry us into the stars! For the God Emperor of Mankind! FOR THE IMPERIUM!!
  • I've already hit rock bottom so there will be no surprises.

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Monday January 07, 2013 @09:34PM (#42513305) Homepage

    Example: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/research-reveals-link-between-low-vitamin-d-and-military-suicide/ [vitamindcouncil.org]
    "Research published this past week is the first to report that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk for suicide in US military personnel."

    Seasonal Affective Disorder is well known to be correlated with low sunlight levels:
    http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/mental-health-and-learning-disorders/depression/ [vitamindcouncil.org]

    So, I can believe blue morning and red evening would help as mentioned in the article, but I would expect that the participants are getting vitamin d deficient too, because the RDAs are generally several times too low (at least in the USA, not sure about Russia). See also: http://www.grassrootshealth.net/recommendation [grassrootshealth.net]

  • Aren't there some fairly simple solutions to this "issue"? Provide the spacecraft with more "natural" lighting and give the astronauts earth based work schedule (9-5 job). The article makes these suggestions as well but only in a few sentences in one paragraph out of 10. Astronauts should be deeply involved in adjusting/finalizing the missions survey areas, they can continue training and familiarizing themselves with their equipment and soon to be home. They should have plenty to do on their trip, not l

  • But this assumes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kilodelta (843627) on Monday January 07, 2013 @09:48PM (#42513479) Homepage
    That it will take 18 months to get to Mars. I know they're using the rocket model for this but I have to explain:

    Rockets expend a vast amount of their energy just getting free of Earth gravity and then use the acceleration to head toward any object but not under power. So they expend the fuel just within the band of the origin.

    But there's a little technology that is currently propelling a couple of satellites called ion propulsion. It's not a massive dump of energy but a slow, steady one while acceleration increases. Calculation show a trip to Mars would take about 39 days with ion drive. Granted, the spacecraft would be best built in LEO or above that way no aerodynamic issues have to be taken into account. Essentially you'd have something that looks like the lunar lander used in the Apollo program. Not sleek and graceful but sort of cute ugly.
    • 39 days to Mars with ion propulsion? Show me your "calculation." DAWN took 9 months, I want to see how you got a 690% improvement without using a megawatt of power or technology less than TRL 7, and how much delta-v you expect the launch vehicle to contribute.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        39 days to Mars with ion propulsion? Show me your "calculation."

        They're talking about VASIMR [newscientist.com]

        To travel to Mars in 39 days, however, the engine would need 1000 times more power than solar energy could provide. For that, VASIMR would need an onboard nuclear reactor...."That would be quite a ways down the line," Squire says.

  • Astronaughts are not your average joe! At least they weren't initially before we decided to start sending up teachers and the like. Last I knew they don't just take random people, but actually have criteria that must be met first.
  • fuck off, Dave, just fuck off.

  • "That's one small step for a man, and I'd like to keep it that way."

  • Well, they are government workers ;-)

  • Houston: Maybe it wasn't a good idea to name it Tranquility Base.

  • "Fuck it, dude, let's just stop at the moon and put red cellophane over the camera lenses."

  • This is not a big deal. Those of us who live in the north country deal with this every year. We have evolved social methods for handling the lack of sunlight. The further north you go the greater the effect. Much like travel to Mars. In a space ship they can do the same sorts of things. One modern solution is as simple as using lights of the proper spectrum and intensity. Widely used. Not a big deal.

    • This is not a big deal. Those of us who live in the north country deal with this every year. We have evolved social methods for handling the lack of sunlight.

      I'm not sure that heavy drinking, crippling depression, and widespread suicide would be quite as acceptable on a spacecraft...

  • ... could see this coming.
  • Sending droids to Mars is pretty much as lazy as you can get, NASA just needs to buy some La-Z-boys, bar fridge, and some game controllers and pretty much it could like your working out of your parent's basement.

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