Excessive exposure to harmful sun rays is a labor risk suffered by astronauts, who are at risk of contracting cancer and heart disease. At least that's what we thought. New research shows that astronauts do not die prematurely, but scientists warn that long-term missions pose serious risks.
A study published today at Scientific Reports has not associated exposure to space radiation with a higher risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease among astronauts and cosmonauts. It is a surprising, if not stimulating, result, since it was assumed for a long time that exposure to harmful ionizing radiation would once again confront astronauts in the form of diseases later on and possibly an early tomb.
That said, the lead author of the new study, Robert Reynolds of Mortality Research & Consulting, Inc. in California, warned that the longest-running missions farther away from the Earth's protective magnetic field, such as a Mars mission, they are probably dangerous. and potentially life reduction.
For the new study, Reynolds and colleagues performed a statistical analysis of historical data available to the public. They have included in the study a total of 418 space people, including 301 astronauts and 117 cosmonauts.
The study looked at all astronauts from NASA since 1959 and all Soviet or Russian cosmonauts since 1961, all of them experiencing a trip to the space before July 2018 in the case of astronauts and the December 2017 for cosmonauts. The average period of follow-up of the astronauts was 24 years and for the cosmonauts it was 25 years old.
A total of 89 died, 53 of them astronauts and 36 cosmonauts. These people died for several reasons, but Reynolds and his team were only interested in two particular causes of death: cancer and cardiovascular disease, since these conditions had the potential to be linked to exposure to radiation Among astronauts, 30 percent died of cancer and less than 15 percent died of heart disease. The statistics were a bit different for cosmonauts, half of whom died from heart disease and 28 percent of cancer.
"If the ionizing radiation affects the risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease, the effect is not dramatic."
These statistics may seem aloof and alarming, but Reynolds's analysis suggested that these figures were not anything out of the ordinary. No trend or hypocrite could be detected in the data that indicates a common cause of death, that is, exposure to radiation. "If the ionizing radiation affects the risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease, the effect is not dramatic," the authors of the new study concluded.
But these are "historical doses of space radiation", as the authors described. Apart from Apollo missions, astronauts and cosmonauts in low Earth orbit were still protected by the magnetic field of Earth. The situation in the future, when astronauts deepen in space, will be markedly different, as indicated in the new study:
It is important to note that future missions of deep space exploration will probably offer much higher spatial radiation dosages than those with historical doses, which will result in a different risk profile for future astronauts and cosmonauts. In the coming years, it is imperative that epidemiologists continue to monitor populations of astronauts and cosmonauts for possible harmful effects of exposure to space radiation, using both new and family methods. By doing so, you will be involved in human ambitions for a deeper exploration and the possible colonization of our solar system.
Unfortunately, a mission to Mars could take years in a person's life, except to develop armor or special space costumes. NASA Investigations carried out after 2013 concluded that, without sufficient protection, the astronauts linked to Marci would achieve an amount of radiation higher than that obtained from a computed tomography of the whole body approximately once a week during a whole year
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As a result, a trip back to Mars would expose astronauts to two-thirds of life's possible exposure. And that does not include weather on the Martian surface, with its harshly fine atmosphere and the weak magnetic field.
The new research is encouraging for astronauts who venture into a low orbit on Earth, but given our desire to move further on, we will have to develop some viable solutions.