Certain drugs don’t work while on extended missions in space, a recent study by scientists from the Johnson Space Center publishing to the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. The study suggests that certain drugs do not keep well on the shelf when exposed to the weightlessness of space. The study also suggests alternative treatments may be necessary if Astronauts are to head up on the long Journey toward Mars.
The long list of problems that could influence space travelers heading to the Martian surface is already substantial. But weightlessness in space can cause more than just apathy in human muscles, it can also actually make drugs like paracetamol and antibiotics suddenly less effective. While it is unfortunate, NASA scientists are already brainstorming on how alternative treatments could supplement this newly found lack of effectiveness from drugs and antibiotics.
While in the 1960’s the missions in space were relatively short, often resulting in astronauts being up there for a period no longer than a few days or weeks, the longer term missions of 2011 are going to require astronauts remain in space long enough to get sick and require medical attention more frequently. And while they may not be holding the same as a
It isn’t necessarily that the drugs don’t affect people while they’re in space, but the drugs themselves break down almost twice as quickly when they’re exposed to weightlessness for extended periods. In other words, any drugs that work on Mars may need to be made from scratch from plants and cultures grown on the planet itself. And even then only the materials that can survive the trip would be available to the crews. While no one is expecting to necessarily come across any Martian bacteria, it is possible that the drugs themselves might be needed as bacteria that remain dormant within the astronauts themselves eventually come out in the form of diseases as they reach the Martian surface.
A lack of medical care from outside was already listed as one of the seven major hurdles to overcome before a serious Mars mission would be feasible. Others included the barrier of extended cosmic radiation exposure, low gravity environments, long-term low light effects, social isolation from Earth’s civilization, community building protocol on the red planet, and the crowded conditions and lack of privacy for those undertaking the mission.
But will these problems and others prove too much for a human race wishing to extend themselves beyond Earth and into the stars? If it does, just consider that when Kennedy announced a manned mission to the moon it was considered by many at the time to be foolhardy to even suggest. Only four years earlier the first real probe to enter Earth’s orbit – Sputnik had been released. The idea of stretching out to such a distant body with humans onboard was virtually impossible. And yet Kennedy’s dream was realized eight years later. The real question is, do we have the same kind of courage today?