Experts: NASA Should Set Up Ethical Rules For Astronauts On Long Space Flights

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – According to health and ethic experts, NASA should set up ethical rules regarding health of astronauts on long space flights.

According to Mars mission studies, an astronaut on a round-trip to the Red Planet will be exposed to a level of radiation that currently violates NASA’s existing health limits. An astronaut will be exposed to enough radiation to increase their lifetime risk of developing fatal cancer by more than 3 percent.

A report from the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine committee released earlier this month suggest that NASA should develop ethic guidelines when exceptions to their standards need to be made during long voyages.

These exceptions would be used during a manned trip to Mars, which is a goal of NASA.

“From its inception, space exploration has pushed the boundaries of human endurance and risked the lives and health of astronauts,” Jeffrey Kahn, chair of the IOM committee, said in a statement obtained by Space.com.

The report lists some of the risk astronauts’ face on long-term flights; they include vision impairment, heightened cancer risk due to radiation exposure, and bone loss from the microgravity environment.

According to results from NASA’s Curiosity rover, a 180-day trip to mars, followed by a 500-day stay and then another 180-day trip back to Earth would expose astronauts to about 1.01 radiation units. That level is more than astronauts should receive in a lifetime; and is a 5 percent increase in cancer risk.

“Astronauts put their lives and health at great risk for their country and humankind,” Kahn said in the statement. “Our report build on NASA’s work and confirms the ethical imperative to protect astronauts’ health, while fulfilling the agency’s mission of exploration.”

The IOM report was funded by NASA.

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