Among the various hazards that humans will face during a mission to Mars, NASA discussed another factor that can affect the overall health of astronauts. According to the agency, encountering different gravity fields as astronauts transition from Earth to Mars and back has hazardous effects.

As NASA gears up for its newest spaceflight program known as Artemis, the agency is looking into the possible issues that could threaten the safety of its astronauts. In addition to the various dangerous factors such as Mars’ extreme environmental conditions, the agency identified gravity as one of the hazards that astronauts will face on an upcoming mission to the Red Planet.

According to NASA, once the mission to Mars kicks off, astronauts will have to endure microgravity conditions that are far less than what they’re used to on Earth. The agency noted that the astronauts might have to go through this experience for about two years, which includes the trips to and from the Red Planet.

As explained in a previous study, being exposed to microgravity for an extended period of time have detrimental effects on a person’s bone structure and muscles, as they will be contracted and stretched in space.

But, in addition to the effects caused by Mars’ gravity on the bones and muscles, astronauts will also be affected by the gravity field of Earth once they get back. Since they will spend a long time in space, they will have to readjust to Earth’s conditions once they return.

“When astronauts finally return home they will need to readapt many of the systems in their bodies to Earth’s gravity,” NASA explained in a statement. “Bones, muscles, cardiovascular system have all been impacted by years without standard gravity.”

“To further complicate the problem, when astronauts transition from one gravity field to another, it’s usually quite an intense experience,” the agency added. “Blasting off from the surface of a planet or a hurdling descent through an atmosphere is many times the force of gravity.”

As possible solutions to this issue, NASA is currently looking into utilizing treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent astronauts from encountering problems with their bones and muscles during long-duration trips in space.

An artist's rendering showing astronauts exploring the surface of Mars. NASA