THAT’S A PROBLEM: Mars Missions Can Only Last 4 Years Due to Radiation.

As the world once again sets its sights on the moon, it can seem like continuing on to Mars is the next logical step. Some space travel fans like Elon Musk have talked excitedly about seeding Maritan colonies within the next decade, but a new study from UCLA could put a damper on such plans. According to the latest data, humans could only safely spend four years on Mars before receiving an unsafe dose of radiation.

The researchers set out to answer two key questions for a hypothetical crewed Mars mission: Is it possible to safely send astronauts to Mars? And could the timing of a mission reduce the amount of radiation astronauts encounter? The answer to both of those questions is “yes,” but there are caveats.

While it’s possible for astronauts to live and work safely on Mars, this is not a long-term proposition. The team calculated that it is possible to shield a spacecraft sufficiently to protect the crew on the way to and from Mars, but that can only do so much. Cosmic radiation on the red planet is a real threat. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a magnetic field to deflect these deadly rays. Even with shielding and medical monitoring, the clock is ticking from the moment the crew sets foot on Mars.

Mars colonies will likely have to be underground but I suspect Elon Musk knows that and is preparing well in advance.