The space radiation environment is a complex combination of fast-moving ions derived from all atomic species found in the periodic table. The energy spectrum of each ion species varies widely but is prominently in the range of 400–600 MeV/n. The large dynamic range in ion energy is difficult to simulate in ground-based radiobiology experiments. Most ground-based irradiations with mono-energetic beams of a single one ion species are delivered at comparatively high dose rates. In some cases, sequences of such beams are delivered with various ion species and energies to crudely approximate the complex space radiation environment. This approximation may cause profound experimental bias in processes such as biologic repair of radiation damage, which are known to have strong temporal dependencies. It is possible that this experimental bias leads to an over-prediction of risks of radiation effects that have not been observed in the astronaut cohort. None of the primary health risks presumably attributed to space radiation exposure, such as radiation carcinogenesis, cardiovascular disease, cognitive deficits, etc., have been observed in astronaut or cosmonaut crews. This fundamentally and profoundly limits our understanding of the effects of GCR on humans and limits the development of effective radiation countermeasures.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part C: Toxicology and Carcinogenesis
Chancellor, J., Nowadly, C., Williams, J., Aunon-Chancellor, S., Chesal, M., Looper, J., & Newhauser, W. (2021). Everything you wanted to know about space radiation but were afraid to ask. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part C: Toxicology and Carcinogenesis, 39 (2), 113-128. https://doi.org/10.1080/26896583.2021.1897273