From scientists to science fiction fans, the concept of sending the first humans on a spaceflight to Mars has long captured the imagination.

The practical challenges of sending humans to Mars, on the other hand, can stagger the mind.

In addition to the technological and logistical hurdles that come with a 140 million mile, 21-month trip to Mars and back again, there are many unknowns about how such a journey could impact the health of the crew.

These hazards could be significant, and include:

  • The prolonged effects of weightlessness
  • Exposure to cosmic radiation
  • The psychological effects of long-term isolation and confinement
  • The stress and communication challenges of being far from Earth
  • Living and working in a closed environment for extended time

So how do you prepare astronauts for a long journey into the unknown? And how can we make that trip as safe as possible?

Those are some of the questions being investigated by Aleksandra Stankovic, PhD, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital and member of the faculty of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Learn more.