Astronauts in danger from radiation

Nasa was told this week to do more to protect astronauts from deadly radiation in space. America’s top science body said spacemen needed greater protection for planned missions to the Moon and Mars.

The US National Research Council said astronauts were regularly exposed to cosmic rays from distant supernnova explosions.

They were also in peril from violent storms on the sun that sent deadly particles flying through space. Health threats include cancers such as leukaemia, plus heart disease, cataracts and breathing disorders.

Daniel Baker, author of the council’s report, said: “One concern is that astronauts could become ill from space radiation effects and vomit in their space suits, which could be extremely serious.”

The report said a violent solar storm that fortunately occurred between the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions in August 1972 could have killed any astronauts. Dr Baker said: “We know that this storm was large enough that it could have had potentially fatal consequences to astronauts had they been on the moon at that time.”

The report suggests special storm shelters could be built inside spacecraft and on the moon to protect astronauts. It also calls for a colour-coded alert system to be devised to warn quickly of any incoming radiation from solar storms.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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