Jamestown Native, NASA Member Talks Mission To Mars

Laurie Abadie, Jamestown native who works in NASA’s Human Research Program, visited the Martz Observatory to discuss with a full crowd the research and preparations in place to send humans to Mars. P-J photo by Jimmy McCarthy

FREWSBURG — A round-trip to Mars would take three years. That means you’re away from your family and friends.

You’d be in a confined and isolated environment and you would survive on nutrition made of freeze-dried food.

You’d be required to exercise every day for two hours just to maintain your bone and muscle strength.

Ready for the journey?

Laurie Abadie, Jamestown native and NASA human space flight specialist, visited the Martz Observatory on Wednesday evening to discuss to a full crowd how NASA is preparing the human body for a mission to Mars.

Abadie has spent over four years in NASA’s Human Research Program. She currently works in a NASA office in Cleveland, and prior to that, she spent 10 years at the Johnson Space Center in mission control where she helped cargo ships that traveled to the space station.

“What the Human Research Program is tasked with is figuring out all the risks associated with sending humans to space,” she said. “We basically fund the research both on the ground and in flight to help make sure we keep astronauts not only safe, but healthy to have a successful mission to Mars.”

Abadie said the program is examining and researching risks, and one of the biggest ones they’re delving into is space radiation. Abadie said space radiation not only causes nausea and fatigue, but it can also impact memory and the ability to think clearly. The central nervous system can be damaged and there’s higher risk for cardiac disease and cancer.

To address the risk, Abadie said NASA uses a unique facility in Long Island, the Brookhaven Lab, to test space radiation.

“We test different materials.We test biological samples and cells,” she said. “We basically send different types of radiation at it to see what would be the best material for a space craft or habitat on Mars to protect the astronauts.”

Abadie said the Human Research Program is also addressing issues related to isolation, alternate gravity fields and ensuring there’s enough food and medical supplies for a three-year journey.

Abadie said isolation can lead to behavioral health problems with months of confinement in a capsule. As for changes in gravity fields, she said it could cause sickness and an inability to control muscles.

Challenges are still in the way to get humans to Mars, and Abadie said they’re working to mitigate them. Abadie said NASA’s looking to make the journey when Earth and Mars are at their closest point. That translates to a six-month trip leaving Earth to reach Mars.

“Everything is working to a presence on Mars,” she said. “To get humans on Mars, we wanted to look for water. We found it and now we want to figure out where’s the best place on Mars to live, is there any life on Mars and basically how we’ll get there.”

Abadie was born and raised in Jamestown. She attended the University of Buffalo for undergraduate school where she majored in aerospace engineering.

During her junior year, she applied and was accepted to a cooperative education position at NASA Jobs and Space Center in Houston. She alternated semesters between UB and in Houston working for NASA.

Abadie continued her education and applied for the NASA Fellowship Program, which paid for her graduate school expenses while guaranteeing a job after. She attended the University of Arkansas and got a master’s in space and planetary sciences. She went on to receive a second master’s at the University of Colorado in space operations.

COMMENTS