Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: I’ll sit out on the next mission to Mars

Mar 14, 2024, 8:00 AM | Updated: 10:58 am

Utah perseverance rover...

(This image made available by NASA shows the planet Mars. This composite photo was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Associated Press)

(This image made available by NASA shows the planet Mars. This composite photo was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Associated Press)

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

Jeff Caplan won’t be on the next mission to Mars.

There are two things we know about the first humans to visit Mars. Elon Musk already has a manned mission on the drawing board. The first thing we know is they’ll get one heck of a parade when they get back.

The second thing we know they might not be able to attend. It’ll take four months to get to Mars — give or take — then the trip back, bombarded by cosmic radiation far more than you’d find in Earth’s orbit. Radiation particles so tiny moving at such velocity — they zip through the ship’s hull, clothing and astronauts’ bodies creating a cancer risk. 

Then there’s space sickness. The New York Times reports it’s sort of like car sickness, but worse. NASA only found out about it 20 years into the space program. See, manly man astronauts would never admit to being sick. Except for a hot mic and an overheard conversation in the 70’s, scientists would have never known.  

They do know about the puffy faces. After time in space, blood pools above the neck sometimes causing permanent vision problems. That blood affects the nasal passages — you can’t smell or taste much. Which is why the international space station crew keeps wasabi and hot sauce on board. 

After you eat it, lack of gravity makes it hard to burp without barfing. You pass gas more often, and the body can’t tell when to urinate. Let’s just say — it can happen out of the blue. Your muscle mass decreases and kidney stones are more frequent.  

Then, after about 50 days, the blood flow in the jugular vein can change direction, creating a risk of blood clots. And if an astronaut needs surgery? The space doctor cuts you open and your innards can actually float away. They haven’t figured that one out, yet there are brave souls lining up for a chance to go to Mars. 

Me? I’ll go to the parade.

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Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: I’ll sit out on the next mission to Mars