Scientists exploring ways to protect Astronauts from Radiation


Being an astronaut is an easy job. There are many risks and dangers that astronauts face like being exposed to explosions, suffocation in the vacuum environment, anti-gravity problems and many more. But the deadliest of all these threats is the invisible radiation.

A protective bubble called the magnetosphere is generated by our Earth’s magnetic field to shield the surface from harmful cosmic radiation. People who travel beyond this layer will be subjected to harmful solar storms and cosmic rays that can cause cell damage and critical changes in the DNA. Even the current shielding used on the ISS (International Space Station) while not be enough to protect the astronauts when they venture out in the deeper space. Take the example of a trip to Mars. Such a trip will expose an astronaut to high degrees of radiation which will be equal to getting a whole body CT scan once every 5 days of the entire trip. The effect of such radiation can be very drastic. The long-term effect of such exposure to radiation can be studied from the earth itself, from incidents like Chernobyl disaster.

The interstellar travel can be made a complete success by studying from plants and animals that have evolved and outgrown in environments that were affected by radiation. Their evolvement, ability to tolerate radiation and in some cases completely avoid the effects of radiation can be studied and made applicable in future for human space ventures.

You might have heard of the famous Chernobyl disaster. Chernobyl used to be a nuclear power plant back in 1986 which experienced an accident at the nuclear reactor. The place is still affected by the harmful gamma radiation, the same kind that astronauts will be exposed to, in space. But creatures of all types, big and small, from microbes to wolves continue to live in this region which extends to about thousand square miles. Scientists have been visiting this place regularly since the year 2000, to observe and study hundreds of species of organisms, to see their reaction to the environment and their evolvement. Some organisms like the red firebug mutate physically while others like certain bacteria and birds have increased their resistance and tolerance to this radiation

Human genomes contain secrets to a mechanism for resisting and tolerating these kinds of radiations. Scientists hope that the differences and evolvement of Chernobyl organisms can help to know more about humans and help them in long space flights.