Category Archives: Science Commentary

Cosmic rays impair astronaut brain function

I really miss writing about science. And, of course, you probably have figured out I’m into science fiction. I once had an idea to create a website called “Sci for Sci Fi” that would cover current science research and propose ways that research could inform readers’ SF writing. Although that project never got off the ground, I’ve decided to go ahead write about research with an eye for how it can inspire fiction on this blog. This post is my first stab in that direction.

Photo source:

Photo source:

When you travel to Mars using current technology, you are exposed to quite a bit of cosmic radiation. A recent study by Charles Limoli and his colleagues found that this exposure causes significant damage to the central nervous system, leading to dementia-like mental impairments.

“Performance decrements, memory deficits, and loss of awareness and focus during spaceflight may affect mission-critical activities,” said Limoli, a professor of radiation oncology in University of California Irivine’s School of Medicine, “and exposure to these particles may have long-term adverse consequences to cognition throughout life.”

Well, I say, that doesn’t bode well. Can you imagine the implications for Mars colonization if once you get there you start forgetting things … little things, large things, important things? Why send our best and brightest to the Red Planet if they’re only going to be less than that by the time they get there?

Now, you might be saying, we’ve had people working up in the International Space Station (ISS), for years. They’ve been exposed to cosmic rays. Why haven’t we noticed this in our astronauts before?


Read More