Program Support - Space Radiation

    Space Radiation

    The space radiation environment poses both acute and chronic risks to crew health and safety. Unlike some other aspects of space travel, space radiation exposure has significant mortality and morbidity implications for the lifetime of the crew. As part of NASA's Human Research Program, the Space Radiation Program Element (SRPE) performs investigations to ensure that the crews can safely live and work in the space radiation environment without exceeding the permissible exposure limits during and after the missions. The term "safely" means that 'risk limits' are sufficiently understood such that acceptable limits on mission, post-mission and multi-mission consequences can be defined.

    Although information exists to recommend crew exposure limits and spacecraft design requirements for missions in low Earth orbit, there is insufficient knowledge of the health effects of radiation, the space radiation environment, and countermeasure efficacy to provide recommendations on crew exposure limits and design requirements for extended lunar and Mars missions. Thus, a major focus of the SRPE is basic and fundamental research to expand the knowledge base and reduce the uncertainty inherent in current exposure limits and design requirements. Uncertainty reduction for Lunar and Mars missions must occur on a timeline to support agency goals in vehicle, mission, and crew selections.

    The major deliverables for the Space Radiation Program Element include:
    • Recommendations to crew permissible exposure limits for exploration missions.
    • Radiobiological data, projection models, and computational tools to assess and project crew risk of cancer, central nervous system and degenerative tissue risks as well as acute radiation syndrome from space radiation;
    • Computational tools and models to assess vehicle design for radiation protection;
    • Assessment of updated technologies for monitoring radiation exposure and recommendations on technologies to be used operationally;
    • Uncertainty reductions to enable radiation protection design and crew constraints for lunar and Mars missions
    • Assessment of effectiveness and development of physical or biological countermeasures to mitigate radiation health risks.
    The SRPE transfers the results and products of research to support NASA's current and future operations for exploration.

    The Space Radiation Program Element is a multi-center project led by JSC, and includes the work at the Langley Research Center (LaRC) and the Ames Research Center (ARC). A majority of the research is performed by peer reviewed principal investigators in academia. The intramural and extramural researchers use the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven to conduct research using accelerator-based simulation of space radiation.

    For more information, please visit the

    • John Uri - Manager, Space Radiation Project
    • Francis Cucinotta - Scientist, Space Radiation Project