The radiation environment in space differs significantly from the types of radiation humans encounter on Earth. Unlike gamma rays, x-rays, and other terrestrial forms of radiation, space radiation contains high-energy particles that can cause fundamental cellular changes in any matter it encounters, including human tissue and organs. As a result, space radiation poses a number of significant health and safety risks for crewmembers in the space environment, including the possibility of cancer, visual disorders, radiation sickness, damage to the central nervous system, and potential hereditary effects.
NASA scientists within the Space Radiation Program Element (SPRE) are working to study the impact of long-term exposure to space radiation and to develop countermeasures that may help protect crewmembers from these effects.
Interdisciplinary teams at several research facilities, including Johnson Space Center, the Langley Research Center, the Ames Research Center, and the Brookhaven National Laboratory, collaborate on ongoing space radiation studies and experiments. Current investigations focus on learning more about the radiation environments that crewmembers will encounter during long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars.