Description: It is anticipated that early in the next century manned missions into outer space will occur, with a mission to Mars scheduled between 2015 and 2020. However, before such missions can be undertaken, a realistic estimation of the potential risks to the flight crews is required. One of the uncertainties remaining in this risk estimation is that posed by the effects of exposure to the radiation environment of outer space. Although the composition of this environment is fairly well understood, the biological effects arising from exposure to it are not. The reasons for this are three-fold: (1) A small but highly significant component of the radiation spectrum in outer space consists of highly charged, high energy (HZE) particles which are not routinely experienced on earth, and for which there are insufficient data on biological effects; (2) Most studies on the biological effects of radiation to date have been high-dose, high dose-rate, whereas in space, with the exception of solar particle events, radiation exposures will be low-dose, low dose-rate; (3) Although it has been established that the virtual absence of gravity in space has a profound effect on human physiology, it is not clear whether these effects will act synergistically with those of radiation exposure. A select panel will evaluate the utilizing experiments and models to accurately predict the risks associated with exposure to HZE particles. Topics of research include cellular and tissue response, health effects associated with radiation damage, model animal systems, and critical markers of Radiation response.
Date: June 1, 1997
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