Astronauts could safely travel to Mars if the mission is short enough

One of the biggest concerns with sending astronauts on deep-space missions is how well the astronauts will fare against the significantly greater radiation exposure. On earth and in orbit above the earth, the protective atmosphere of the planet shields astronauts from much of the exposure to radiation from the sun and other sources. As NASA and other space agencies gear up for missions to send humans to the surface of Mars for the first time, one of the key questions that needs to be answered is if traveling to Mars is safe for humans.

A new study has been conducted by researchers at UCLA and found that a mission to Mars would be safe for astronauts and viable if it doesn't exceed four years. The spacecraft would require sufficient shielding to protect from radiation while sticking to a duration of approximately four years. Another contributing factor to safety for a Mars mission would be launching the mission at the right time.

Study researchers say the best time for a crewed mission to Mars would be when solar activity is at its peak, which is the solar maximum. The reason for launching the mission when the sun is at its maximum level of activity is because much of the dangerous and energetic particles from distant galaxies would be deflected by the increased activity of the sun.

A trip to and from Mars lasting about four years is possible. Researchers say it takes about nine months to reach Mars on average. That means any potential Martian mission could leave Earth, reach Mars, and return in less than two years. A mission lasting longer than four years would expose astronauts to high amounts of radiation, with the main danger posed by particles outside of our solar system.