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Radiation Protection Technology

 

The greatest environmental risk to human spaceflight beyond the Earth’s magnetosphere is radiation. Ionizing radiation, galactic cosmic radiation (GCR), and solar cosmic radiation (SCR), is a significant risk to astronauts for all long-duration missions beyond LEO regardless of destination (NEO, lunar surface, or Mars). Many of these high energy elementary particles penetrate spacecraft, pressure vessels and space suits (generating secondary radiation particles in the process) as well as organs, cells and DNA of human occupants inducing degenerative changes usually associated with accelerated aging (extracellular matrix remodeling, persistent inflammation, oxidative damage, cataracts and damage to the central nervous system). DNA damage results in increased mutation rates, genomic instability, cancer induction and activation of latent tumors. Effective strategies for mitigating space radiation hazards must be developed, tested and verified if mission success is to be assured. Technologies for shielding approaches such as placement of equipment, food, water and waste material in long-duration spacecraft; polyethylene lined sleep stations or internal ‘shelters;’ external shielding approaches such as storable propellant placement, use of NEO regolith ‘sandbagging’ to protect crew compartment(s) during proximity ops and return phases of the mission, radio-protective pharmaceuticals (TA06) that could be taken as a preventive or in response to a significant increase in radiation (such as an SPE) and plastics/polymers need to be developed and tested.

 

 

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