Shooting Star Boston Business Forward

Peace on earth and goodwill toward men are in woefully short supply this holiday season. But Dava Newman, collaborating with a polyglot band of scientists from MIT to Moscow, has her sights set on a higher realm-a manned expedition to Mars. For a woman who wants to go to Mars, or at least help send her colleagues there, the problems are a tad daunting. To start with, space travel is hard on the human body. Once astronauts leave the earth’s hospitable atmosphere, they face deprivations of oxygen, and of the atmospheric pressure that keeps us in one piece. On such a journey, they will be exposed to radiation and extremes of temperature unlike any on earth. They will be vulnerable to flying rocks and other space debris. For previous space expeditions, scientists created huge white suits that supply astronauts with the right mix of gases for breathing and the correct pressure on their bodies. Suits that shield them from the harmful rays, the incinerating heat, and lethal cold that can practically freeze-dry a body. But for the long trip to Mars, which will likely be our next manned space expedition, these old suits just won’t do-at least not for Dava Jean Newman, a scientist who has set her sights on the Red Planet.