December 8, 2003 | David F. Coppedge

If You Like Cancer, You Can Live on Mars

The optimistic title, “Humans could survive Mars visit,” belies the bad news in the body of the article on BBC News.  The article reports on findings announced at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, based on data from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft instrument, Mars Radiation Environment Experiment (MARIE), which, unfortunately, stopped working after October’s record solar flares (See Nov. 6 headline).  It gathered enough data before its demise to characterize the risks of radiation to humans on Mars.  Though the hazards are twice those experienced on the space station, scientists feel they are survivable enough to allow for limited manned exploration of the red planet.

This might be rephrased as an old-fashioned bad-news, good-news joke.
Bad news: Mars has no protective magnetic field, so is bombarded by deadly radiation.  If you go, you would be at high risk of cancer, cataracts, nervous system damage, and other unknown health problems.
Good news: You could live underground.

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