Much is discussed about space’s physical effects, but what about its mental effects?
It is not just the body that’s affected by long stays in space, but the mind too. Astronauts have been cut off from human contact, sight of Earth and radio contact with anyone back home. Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev was stranded in space for 313 days when the Soviet Union broke up in 1992, thanks to budget cuts. His hometown even changed its name during his mission.
The number of minutes it can take for radio signals to travel between Earth and Mars
If we are ever to put humans on Mars, the problems are only likely to be compounded by the huge distances and timescales involved. Very quickly the Earth will become a tiny blue dot. It can take up to 21 minutes for radio signals to travel between us and Mars, so you might need to wait more than half an hour for any reply from home.
To research the possible effects of such isolation, several international space agencies ran the Mars-500 mission. Six astronauts spent 520 days inside a container designed to simulate the journey to the Red Planet. Happily, no major problems were encountered.Lead image:
kevingill/Flickr CC BY
- New Scientist: Mars 500 special
- Washington Post: Russian cosmonaut returns after being stranded in space
- European Space Agency Mars Express blog: Time delay between Mars and Earth
- PDF of Mind games [PDF 79KB]