American culture and cinema often glorifies space travel, from the heroic early adventurers of “The Right Stuff” to the more recent rescue of Matt Damon’s astronaut character from Mars in “The Martian.”

But the reality is less glamorous, with journeys into deep space posing serious dangers to astronauts that include inadequate food, radiation exposure and heightened risks of developing cancer and other maladies. And NASA is not yet ready to handle those dangers as it moves ahead with plans to send the first human mission to Mars by the 2030s, according to a recent audit.

NASA inspector general Paul K. Martin found that the legendary space agency “faces significant challenges” ensuring the safety of any Mars-bound astronauts, and that its schedule to limit the risks is overly “optimistic.” As a result, he said, Mars crews likely will have to accept more risks to their health and safety than their predecessors who went to the moon and work in the International Space Station.

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