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NASA Gets Ready To Address Tough Questions

hat would increase the risk of cancer by 3 percent over the astronaut's career) and the number of hours crew members should work each week (No more than 48 hours).

But on other topics -such as steps for disposing of the dead and cutting off an astronaut's medical care if he or she cannot survive – no such easy answers exist. For these, NASA must formulate its own policy.

'There may come a time in which a significant risk of death has to be weighed against mission success,' Wolpe says. 'The idea that we will always choose a person's well-being over mission success, it sounds good, but it doesn't really turn out to be necessarily the way decisions always will be made.'

For now, astronauts and cosmonauts who become critically sick or injured at the international space station - something that has never happened - can leave the orbiting outpost 220 miles above Earth and return home within hours aboard a Russian Soyuz space vehicle.

Yet, that wouldn't be possible if a life-and-death situation were to arise on a voyage to Mars, where the nearest hospital is millions of miles away. Moreover, Mars-bound astronauts will not always be able to rely on instructions from Mission Control, since it would take nearly a half-hour for a question to be asked and an answer to come back via radio.

Astronauts going to the moon and Mars for long periods of time must contend with the basic health risks from space travel, multiplied many times over: radiation, the loss of muscle and bone, and the psychological challenges of isolation.

NASA will consider whether astronauts must undergo preventive surgery, such as an appendectomy, to head off medical emergencies during a mission, and whether astronauts should be required to sign living wills with end-of-life instructions.

The space agency will also have to decide whether to set age restrictions on the crew, and whether astronauts of reproductive age should be required to
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