Exploration-class missions will expose astronauts to greater levels and more varied types of radiation. Radiation exposure can lead to many health problems, including acute effects such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, skin injury and changes to white blood cell counts and the immune system. Longer-term radiation effects include damage to the eyes, gastrointestinal system, lungs and central nervous system. Exposure also increases cancer risk.
On missions beyond Earth's orbit, radiation exposure from dangerous bursts of solar radiation, called solar particle events, could impair an astronaut's performance and result in mission failure. The Radiation Effects Team is focused on understanding and mitigating the risks related to exposure to various types of space radiation, with an emphasis on acute effects. The NSBRI Center of Acute Radiation Research is a central component of the Team with multiple projects assessing the effects of exposure from solar events, better defining the risks, and developing and testing methods to prevent and treat acute radiation syndrome symptoms.
Additional Team projects focus on dosimetry systems to monitor radiation, provide advance warning of risk during extravehicular activities and provide real-time dose rates inside a spacecraft.
The research will have benefits for medical treatment and could be used for threat detection by agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.
Interim Team Leader:
Marjan Boerma, Ph.D.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences