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Nasa Developing Technology to Protect from Space Radiation to reach Mars Safely

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Washington, Oct 14: While it’s true that space radiation is one of the biggest challenges for a human journey to Mars, NASA said it is developing technologies and countermeasures to ensure a safe and successful journey to the red planet.

“Some people think that radiation will keep NASA from sending people to Mars, but that’s not the current situation,” said Pat Troutman, NASA Human Exploration Strategic Analysis Lead.

“When we add the various mitigation techniques up, we are optimistic it will lead to a successful Mars mission with a healthy crew that will live a very long and productive life after they return to Earth,” Troutman said in a NASA statement.

NASA plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Space radiation is quite different and more dangerous than radiation on Earth. Even though the International Space Station sits just within Earth’s protective magnetic field, astronauts receive over ten times the radiation than what is naturally occurring on Earth.

Outside the magnetic field there are galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), solar particle events (SPEs) and the Van Allen Belts, which contain trapped space radiation.

“One of the most challenging parts for the human journey to Mars is the risk of radiation exposure and the inflight and long-term health consequences of the exposure,” NASA Space Radiation Element Scientist Lisa Simonsen said.

“This ionizing radiation travels through living tissues, depositing energy that causes structural damage to DNA and alters many cellular processes,” Simonsen said.

NASA is evaluating various materials and concepts to shield the crew from galactic cosmic rays which are very challenging to protect against. They are so energetic they can tear right through metals, plastic, water and cellular material.

Researchers are developing and evaluating shielding concepts for transport vehicles, habitats and space suits with state of the art models at experimental facilities such as the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL).

Scientists are investigating pharmaceutical countermeasures, which may be more effective than shielding to protect crews from galactic cosmic rays.

Teams are integrating radiation-sensing instruments into the Orion spacecraft, like the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor.

Engineers are developing enhanced space weather forecasting tools and studying faster rockets to reduce the time spent in space and exposure to radiation.

NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division is also developing various space radiation detection and mitigation technologies.

The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) was one of the first instruments sent to Mars specifically to prepare for future human exploration.

It measures and identifies radiation on the Martian surface, such as protons, energetic ions, neutrons and gamma rays.

This includes not only direct radiation from space, but also secondary radiation produced by the interaction with the Martian atmosphere and ground.

“Mars is the best option we have right now for expanding long-term, human presence,” Troutman said.

“We’ve already found valuable resources for sustaining humans, such as water ice just below the surface and past geological and climate evidence that Mars at one time had conditions suitable for life. What we learn about Mars will tell us more about Earth’s past and future and may help answer whether life exists beyond our planet,” Troutman added.(IANS)

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Space Radiation Can Hinder Formation of New Cells in Astronauts’ Brain Memory

The new research has filled an important gap in scientific knowledge in the study of the types of neutrons produced in the atmosphere or inside spacecraft during their atoms’ interactions with cosmic rays

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nasa
The team began with a simple mixture of hydrogen and 0.3 per cent carbon monoxide and heated it to 330-1,230 Celsius. They also exposed it to a high dose of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Pixabay

While several agencies are planning to establish new orbital space stations and send expeditions across the solar system, a team of Russian scientists has found that space radiation could temporarily hinder formation of new cells in brains’ memory centres.

The team from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), however, found that effects of low-dose neutron and gamma ray (Y-ray) radiation had no impact on rodents’ intellectual capabilities, the Sputnik news agency reported.

It means the mice’s mental abilities and behaviour remained almost unaffected by the radiation, with memorisation occurring as normal and the rodents behaving in ways that were no different from the non-irradiated control group.

Irradiated and non-irradiated mice “showed no differences in terms of exploratory behaviour or anxiety, six weeks after the irradiation,” with their “ability to form hippocampus-dependent memory also unaffected,” according to the study published in the NeuroReport academic journal.

NASA
According to report, the biggest concern is radiation as such a mission would expose astronauts to levels of radiation greater than permitted under current guidelines. That would not necessarily prevent a mission, but it remains a concern. Pixabay

“We are not asserting that the behaviour and memory of irradiated mice remained completely unaffected,” Sputnik cited Alexander Lazutkin, a senior research scientist at the MIPT as saying to RIA Novosti news agency.

“The data on other types of radiation suggests that despite the apparent preservation of memories, its individual fine components may suffer. That means our work is just the beginning of this kind of research,” he said.

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The new research has filled an important gap in scientific knowledge in the study of the types of neutrons produced in the atmosphere or inside spacecraft during their atoms’ interactions with cosmic rays, the researchers said. (IANS)