|An Interview with:|
Thomas B. Borak, Ph.D.
Colorado State University
NSBRI Radiation Effects Team
Courtesy of EarthSky Communications
Thomas Borak: Radiation can provide injury to humans. At rather low doses of radiation, there's the possibility that an individual could develop cancer.
Thomas Borak is a radiation physicist at Colorado State University. With support from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Dr. Borak is developing a device to monitor and warn astronauts of radiation in space during extended missions.
Thomas Borak: There is concern that they would develop a cancer if they're exposed while they're outside of their space vehicle to a solar particle event. This could be a very, very serious situation.
Dr. Borak said that this dosimeter monitors doses of radiation a person receives, and transmits up-to-the-minute information to a computer. Cancer patients here on Earth who undergo new forms of radiation therapy using protons or carbon ions, said Borak, could also benefit from the dosimeter.
Thomas Borak: When you're delivering radiation to a cancer patient, you're trying to deliver an extremely high dose to the tumor. A dosimeter like this might be placed outside of the direct beam of radiation therapy and provide immediate information to make sure that whatever is delivering this therapy dose hasn't gone astray.
Borak added that the dosimeter is in the testing phase and hopes it will provide valuable improvements to radiation dosimetry in the coming years.
Thomas Borak: Radiation is now considered by NASA a very important concern, and the fact that we are developing an instrument that can use modern technology and modern electronics and miniaturize it so that it can be used both in space and for applications on Earth is challenging, and frankly from a scientific point of view, it's exciting and enjoyable.
Dr. Borak spoke more about the dosimeter he's developing, in collaboration with Dr. Tore Straume at NASA Ames Research Center and Dr. Les Braby at Texas A&M University, which is a personal device to monitor and transmit radiation dosage a person experiences.
Thomas Borak: A personal dosimeter is something that is assigned to an individual. If you imagine that an astronaut is going to be outside of the space capsule, they are going to have simply a spacesuit to provide life support. So the engineering challenge is to make it small, compact, and insure that it doesn't interfere with any of the other life support systems.