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NASA Backs Studies Of Space Radiation Effects On Humans

By | August 11, 2008

      The Human Research Program will provide grants to fund nine proposals from six states to investigate questions about effects of space radiation on human explorers, NASA announced.

      Selected proposals from researchers in California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, New York and Utah total about $13 million.

      The ground-based studies will address the impact of space radiation on astronaut health. Research areas will include risk predictions for cancer and models for potential damage to the central nervous system.

      Space travel is hazardous to astronauts’ health. Not only are they bombarded with radiation (enormously heavy lead shielding can’t be boosted into space, as a practical matter), they also suffer in other ways.

      For example, in extended periods of, say, half a year in space, an astronaut will lose some of his or her bone and muscle mass. There also are other, less dire health effects, such as nausea in the near-weightlessness of space.

      "The proposals funded this year using advanced biomedical approaches will lead to a much deeper understanding than has been possible in the past on how celestial radiation differs from radiation on Earth," said Francis A. Cucinotta, chief scientist for the Human Research Program at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

      The Human Research Program provides knowledge and technologies to improve human health during space exploration and identifies possible countermeasures for known problems. The program quantifies crew health and performance risks during spaceflight and develops strategies that mission planners and system developers can use to monitor and mitigate health risks.

      The nine projects were selected from 60 proposals that were reviewed by scientific and technical experts from academia and government laboratories. A complete list of the selected proposals is available at:

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