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Thread: A space odyssey: cosmic rays may damage the brains of astronauts

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    A space odyssey: cosmic rays may damage the brains of astronauts

    '(Reuters) - It may not be space debris, errant asteroids, supply shortages, thruster malfunctions or even the malevolent aliens envisioned in so many Hollywood films that thwart astronauts on any mission to Mars. It may be the ubiquitous galactic cosmic rays.

    Researchers said on Friday long-term exposure to these rays that permeate space may cause dementia-like cognitive impairments in astronauts during any future round-trip Mars journey, expected to take at least 2-1/2 years.

    In a NASA-funded study, mice exposed to highly energetic charged particles like those in galactic cosmic rays experienced declines in cognition and changes in the structure and integrity of brain nerve cells and the synapses where nerve impulses are sent and received.

    The irradiated particles in galactic cosmic rays, remnants of star explosions called supernovas, can penetrate spacecraft and astronauts' bodies. Earth itself is protected by its magnetosphere.

    University of California, Irvine radiation oncology professor Charles Limoli said "without a doubt" people would face the same issues as the mice.

    "Astronauts may incur cognitive impairments that lead to performance decrements, confusion, increased anxiety and longer-term problems with cognitive health," said Limoli, whose study appears in the journal Science Advances.

    This could compromise mission critical activities, especially if unanticipated situations arise during deep spaceflight, Limoli said.'

    A space odyssey: cosmic rays may damage the brains of astronauts | Reuters



    I have said time and again that human beings - -with our present technology - are not designed for space flight for extended periods.

    Not just the radiation, but the long term health effects of living in zero gravity for extended periods.
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    Re: A space odyssey: cosmic rays may damage the brains of astronauts

    One counter to this problem that has been under consideration is for the spacecraft to generate its own magnetic field to protect against radiation.


    Gravity can be generated by centrifugal force (ie ring-like structures rotating).


    Shortening the trip is another one; recent ion drive successes (Ceres mission for one) and experimental plasma thrusters may reduce travel time to weeks instead of most of a year.



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    Re: A space odyssey: cosmic rays may damage the brains of astronauts

    Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he stops voting for the Free Fish party.

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    Re: A space odyssey: cosmic rays may damage the brains of astronauts

    Quote Originally Posted by DA60 View Post
    '(Reuters) - It may not be space debris, errant asteroids, supply shortages, thruster malfunctions or even the malevolent aliens envisioned in so many Hollywood films that thwart astronauts on any mission to Mars. It may be the ubiquitous galactic cosmic rays.

    Researchers said on Friday long-term exposure to these rays that permeate space may cause dementia-like cognitive impairments in astronauts during any future round-trip Mars journey, expected to take at least 2-1/2 years.

    In a NASA-funded study, mice exposed to highly energetic charged particles like those in galactic cosmic rays experienced declines in cognition and changes in the structure and integrity of brain nerve cells and the synapses where nerve impulses are sent and received.

    The irradiated particles in galactic cosmic rays, remnants of star explosions called supernovas, can penetrate spacecraft and astronauts' bodies. Earth itself is protected by its magnetosphere.

    University of California, Irvine radiation oncology professor Charles Limoli said "without a doubt" people would face the same issues as the mice.

    "Astronauts may incur cognitive impairments that lead to performance decrements, confusion, increased anxiety and longer-term problems with cognitive health," said Limoli, whose study appears in the journal Science Advances.

    This could compromise mission critical activities, especially if unanticipated situations arise during deep spaceflight, Limoli said.'

    A space odyssey: cosmic rays may damage the brains of astronauts | Reuters



    I have said time and again that human beings - -with our present technology - are not designed for space flight for extended periods.

    Not just the radiation, but the long term health effects of living in zero gravity for extended periods.
    What about the astronauts that spend considerable time in the space station? Aren't they subject to cosmic rays too?

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    Re: A space odyssey: cosmic rays may damage the brains of astronauts

    Quote Originally Posted by EnigmaO01 View Post
    What about the astronauts that spend considerable time in the space station? Aren't they subject to cosmic rays too?
    Yes, they are.
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    Re: A space odyssey: cosmic rays may damage the brains of astronauts

    Radiation Assessment Detectors (RADs) are a common component of spacecraft that orbit/probe Mars. The assessments all indicate significant hazards from galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) and high energy nuclei (HZE ions).

    Roughly 5% of an astronaut's cells may die during a 3 year Mars mission and the brain is 13% more likely to encounter a high energy iron ion. Possible effects (acute and chronic) on humans are an increase in DNA defects, carcinogenesis, cataracts, tumors, and neurological disorders including an increase in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease.

    Prevention schemes include advanced shielding, optimal timing (Solar minimums), and specialized drugs/vitamins.

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