One major obstacle to human space exploration is the possible limitations imposed by the adverse effects of long-term exposure to the space environment. Even before human spaceflight began, the potentially brief exposure of astronauts to the very intense random solar energetic particle (SEP) events was of great concern. A new challenge appears in deep space exploration from exposure to the low-intensity heavy-ion flux of the galactic cosmic rays (GCR) since the missions are of long duration and the accumulated exposures can be high. Because cancer induction rates increase behind low to rather large thickness of aluminum shielding according to available biological data on mammalian exposures to GCR like ions, the shield requirements for a Mars mission are prohibitively expensive in terms of mission launch costs. Preliminary studies indicate that materials with high hydrogen content and low atomic number constituents are most efficient in protecting the astronauts. This occurs for two reasons: the hydrogen is efficient in breaking up the heavy GCR ions into smaller less damaging fragments and the light constituents produce few secondary radiations (especially few biologically damaging neutrons). An overview of the materials related issues and their impact on human space exploration will be given.