NASA Striving to Extend Human Endurance in Space

By Book, Elizabeth G. | National Defense, December 2002 | Go to article overview

NASA Striving to Extend Human Endurance in Space


Book, Elizabeth G., National Defense


Faster space travel and extended human endurance are among the research priorities today at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said Sean O'Keefe, the agency's administrator.

O'Keefe spoke last month at a breakfast meeting of the National Defense Industrial Association's space committee.

"We are impeded, as a consequence of the laws of physics, that we can only go 17,500 miles per hour. That's about the speed John Glenn flew at 40 years ago," O'Keefe told the group.

'"This translates into 'you can't get anywhere real quick in this solar system," he said.

To get to the edge of our solar system, it would take about 16 years, O'Keefe said. "If we launch a mission by 2006, we will get there by 2018. We would have to hope that the cameras and film would still be good"

The amount of time needed to travel to the edge of the solar system makes the trip an unlikely proposition, because of the challenge of human endurance. "The longest duration of human space flight is 196 days, and that was a record set over the last two years," O'Keefe said.

A voyage of 196 days is not enough time to even complete the first leg of a trip to Mars, he said.

There are several unknown factors related to human endurance, such as the effects of radiation on astronauts. …

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