Cosmic radiation is one of the most important stopping factors of manned exploration of the nearest (and not only) cosmos by mankind. More recently, the HI-SEAS V research program, which took place on the isolated territory of the Hawaiian Islands, was completed and set the task of testing human physical and psychological capabilities. And while all interested people are waiting for what the new company SpaceX proposes about its so far fantastic plans for the colonization of Mars, the NASA aerospace agency has embarked on a new, more applied HRP (Human Research Program) program aimed at finding a solution to the impact of radiation on the human body.
“Determining the consequences of prolonged exposure to astronauts is a complex process. It is difficult to determine exactly how radiation interacts with tissues and cells. It is even more difficult to understand what negative effects will emerge in the future from exposure to this radiation. It’s not just about the diseases, but also the effects caused by radiation, on the healthy functioning of the biological system, “says NASA physicist Tony Slaba.
Radiation can cause damage to almost any cells of a living organism. Therefore, the task of the HRP project is to determine the expected effects on the body, including the development of cancer or any adverse effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous system. It has already been proven that cosmic radiation can compress and make arteries less elastic, damage the heart, and lead to the development of cardiovascular diseases by destroying cells in the tissues of blood vessels. In addition, radiation can interfere with neurogenesis (replacing old cells with new ones), damaging or completely destroying existing neuronal cells much more quickly than the body is able to repair or replace them. This, in turn, can manifest itself, for example, in the form of memory deficits and violation of other cognitive functions.
“One of the most serious manifestations of the effects of radiation on cells can be DNA damage. There is the possibility of destroying entire chains, “explains Peter Guida, a biologist at the NASA Laboratory for the Study of Cosmic Radiation.
“The cells are trying to repair these damages. Sometimes it is successful, sometimes not very. And sometimes the recovery can be done incorrectly. Genes that have received a wrong recovery can lead to mutations, and the accumulation of these mutations over time can lead, for example, to the development of cancer. ”
Although some of the effects of the long-term effects of cosmic radiation on the body may be similar to the effects of radiation on Earth, the study considers cosmic radiation as a separate problem.
“In space, beyond the protective magnetic field of the Earth and the atmosphere, there is a complex radiation field of protons, and all elements from the periodic system can be accelerated practically to light speed. The impact of radiation in space is different from the effects of radiation on Earth (for example, from the same X-ray and gamma rays). It is unique in nature. ”
The HRP project wants to find truly effective tools that will protect astronauts going to go to the same Mars. One option, although not solving the problem, but minimizing its consequences is to reduce the time of exposure to radiation. To do this, it is necessary to use faster missiles, which will allow us to spend less time in space. Special pharmaceuticals and special screening materials can also come to the aid, which will be used both in the plating of space vehicles and in the spacesuits of future space colonizers.