From: NASA/Johnson Space Center
Published August 17, 2017 08:28 AM

NASA Protects Its Super Heroes From Space Weather

It’s not a bird or a plane but it might be a solar storm. We like to think of astronauts as our super heroes, but the reality is astronauts are not built like Superman who gains strength from the sun. In fact, much of the energy radiating from the sun is harmful to us mere mortals.

Outside Earth’s protective magnetic field and atmosphere, the ionizing radiation in space will pose a serious risk to astronauts as they travel to Mars. High-energy galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) which are remnants from supernovas and solar storms like solar particle events (SPEs) and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the sun can cause harm to the body and spacecraft. These are all components of space weather.

When astronauts travel in space they can’t see or even feel radiation. However, NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) is studying the effects radiation plays on the human body and developing ways to monitor and protect against this silent hazard.

“Dosimeters and modeling techniques are used to determine how much energy is deposited in the space explorer’s bodies along with inflight tools to try to estimate what type of biological effects they might be experiencing,” said Tony Slaba, Ph.D., NASA research physicist. “Solar storms can cause acute radiation sickness during space flight which has to be dealt with in real time. There’s also an additional risk from exposure to GCRs which may cause central nervous system effects and delayed effects related to cancer and cardiovascular disease after the mission.”

Read more at NASA/Johnson Space Center

Image: NASA's Human Research Program aims to mitigate the harmful effects of the space radiation environment on astronaut health outside of the relative protection of the Earth's magnetosphere. (Credit: NASA/SOHO)

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