View Full Version : NASA Lab Will Study Astronaut's Radiation

2005-Sep-16, 10:03 PM
SUMMARY: NASA and the US Department of Energy have set up a new laboratory to study the effect of radiation on astronauts as they fly outside the Earth’s protective atmosphere. Located at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, the $34 million NASA Space Radiation Laboratory will have 80 researchers annually. The teams will do a variety of experiments with the kinds of radiation found in space in hopes to better understand how it damages living tissue. This can help NASA predict risks and develop countermeasures when risking astronauts to long-term exposure to radiation.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/brookhaven_lab_created.html)
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Dr Nigel
2005-Sep-16, 10:33 PM
Looks like a sensible field for research. In my understanding, the solar wind is one of the biggest obstacles to a manned mission to Mars. Researching the effects of accelerated protons and heavy ions will mimic the most hazardous types of radiation (because, although X-radiation is highly penetrative, it does not interact with living tissue or other materials to the same extent as protons, alpha particles and heavier ions) expected for an interplanetary mission.

The curious thing about radiation and dosimetry is that most of the available data relates to two extremes of exposure : at one end, very low doses such as are encountered by radiation workers or people living with radon gas seeping into their cellars; and at the other end, data from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not a great deal is known about the slightly higher doses expected in a mission to Mars. Also, the types of radiation are different: because alpha radiation is the least penetrative, it is so easy to shield and so few people have received any significant dose of alpha. However, alpha radiation resembles the solar wind more than any other commonly-encountered type (beta, gamma or X-rays).

I assume they will be using cultured cells to investigate the effects of high-energy proton radiation. Presumably, this will help to refine the Q-factor for dosimetry calculations. (The key aspect of dosimetry is calculating how much of the energy possessed by a particle is likely to be transferred to human tissue when the latter encounters the former. The Quality factor summarises this, but, as I understand it, the figures are not very precise.)