New NASA facility will help protect space crews from radiation

Imagine a human spacecraft crew voyaging through space. A satellite sends a warning; energetic particles are being accelerated from the sun's corona, sending dangerous radiation toward their spacecraft, but the crew isn't worried. Long before their journey, researchers on Earth conducted experiments to accurately measure the hazards of space radiation and developed new materials and countermeasures to protect them.

To ensure the safety of spacecraft crews, NASA biologists and physicists will perform thousands of experiments at the new $34 million NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) commissioned today at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. The laboratory, built in cooperation between NASA and DOE, is one of the few facilities that can simulate the harsh space radiation environment.

"Scientists will use this facility as a research tool to protect today's crews on the International Space Station and to enable the next generation of explorers to safely go beyond Earth's protected neighborhood," said Guy Fogleman, director of the Bioastronautics Research Division, Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR), at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Space radiation produced by the sun and other galactic sources is more dangerous and hundreds of times more intense than radiation sources, such as medical X-rays or normal cosmic radiation, usually experienced on Earth. When the intensely ionizing particles found in space strike human tissue, it can result in cell damage and may eventually lead to cancer.

Approximately 80 investigators will conduct research annually at the new facility. "The NSRL will enable us to triple the ability of researchers to perform radiobiology experiments and the resulting science knowledge," said Frank Cucinotta, the program scientist for NASA's Space Radiation Health Project at Johnson Space Center, Houston. "Scientists at universities and medical centers across the

Contact: Steve Roy
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

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