Scientists have developed new drugs that could make astronauts more resistant to cancer-causing space radiation during lengthy missions to Mars.
Entrepreneur Elon Musk plans to send humans to the Red Planet by 2022 but fears have been expressed over the effect of exposure to cosmic rays over the course of the journey, which will take at least nine months.
Beyond the protective magnetic shield of the earth, astronauts are subjected to stronger radiation, which puts them at significant risk of radiation sickness, and an increased lifetime risk of developing cancer and degenerative diseases.
Astronauts are typically exposed to an upper limit of between 800 and 1,200 milli-sieverts (mSv), a form of measurement used for radiation, over their career. One mSv is the equivalent of about three chest X-rays and one Mars trip would subject astronauts to 660 mSv, over half of the career limit.
According to US scientists, a cocktail of anti-ageing drugs which also combat radiation could be the solution.
Dr Alex Zhavoronkov, CEO of Insilico Medicine, who is leading a research project involving an international group of scientists, including researchers from NASA, said, ''The cost of one productive life year (PLY) for humans in space is likely to be much higher than on Earth and efforts should be made to maximise PLYs of the [Mars] colonists…High-LET (linear energy transfer) radiation is among the first challenges that needs to be addressed and productive longevity will likely be a side effect of increased radioresistance.