Citing a discovery by scientists with the McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida and four other research groups, a Colorado-based electronics engineering firm has begun the first-phase design of an instrument that would help protect astronauts from radiation on the International Space Station and during deep-space flights.
The findings in late 2007 — by McKnight Brain Institute researchers with collaborators from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Neuroscience Associates and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center — suggested that identifying medications or physical shielding to protect astronauts from cosmic and solar radiation will be important for the success of human space missions beyond low Earth orbit.
The researchers discovered that a certain type of neural stem cell that was not expected to be overly sensitive to radiation was actually the most vulnerable.
The scientists said that radiation in low Earth orbit is not a concern, but during extended missions to the moon or Mars, measures to protect astronauts from health risks caused by exposure to space radiation will be important, according to Dennis A. Steindler, Ph.D., executive director of the McKnight Brain Institute, who designed the study.
Acting on those findings, Advantage Electronic Product Development of Colorado recently announced it is developing radiation-detecting instruments. The company said prototype instruments are expected to be completed and ready for testing by the first quarter of 2010.