NASA's Orion spacecraft en route to Mars - what's the radiation risk? Credit: Lockheed Martin

NASA’s Orion spacecraft en route to Mars – what’s the radiation risk?
Credit: Lockheed Martin

One of the outcomes from a recent NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting is taking a hard look at radiation levels for those humans shipping out from Earth on a Mars mission.

The NAC held its discussions regarding a wide variety of issues on April 9-10 in Washington, D.C. The NAC advises NASA’s senior leadership on challenges and solutions facing the agency as it attempts to pioneer a new era of human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

A NAC letter to NASA’s Bolden, dated April 16, issued by NAC chair, Steven Squyres, made a recommendation regarding radiation impact on astronauts headed outbound to Mars.

Open communications

First of all, the Council recommended that NASA “openly communicate the radiation risks while proceeding with preparations to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.”

NASA should continue its work to mitigate radiation risks through improved knowledge and technology, the Council observed.

The Council encouraged NASA to “initiate a long-term medical care program for astronauts which includes long-term astronaut health monitoring to mitigate long duration exposure health consequences, and build a baseline for future long-term health and engineering decisions.”

Serious issue

The Council underscored the fact that radiation for deep space flight “is indeed a serious issue to be addressed as technology and understanding evolve.”

It is also clear, the Council added, “that it is not likely we can mitigate all radiation risks to fully meet current radiation health standards.”

The Council concluded, in writing their recommendation on radiation risk — “Consequences of No Action on the Proposed Recommendation” — that accurate information regarding NASA’s planned approach to the critically important issue of radiation safety “will not be adequately provided to all the relevant stakeholders.”

Read the complete NAC statement on this issue:

Picture1 rad effects nac

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